The world of online social interactivity has undergone a sea of change which has been highlighted by the continued rise in the importance and increased usage of social networking sites on the Internet. Unfortunately, the increasing popularity of cyber communities, such as social networks, has been accompanied by an equivalent growth of cyber crimes. As social networking continues to modernize and change in nature, so to have cyber crime activities, adapted to this change. Cyber crime has become a deadly and silent epidemic across the globe and ranks as one of the top four (4) economic crimes ("Price waterhouse coopers"). The most intriguing aspect of modern cyber crimes is that most of them are not being newly created, but are in fact greatly adapting to today’s cyber society and virtual environments, which has however, contributed to the high increase of cyber crimes.
Social Networks such as Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Twitter and Tumblr have grown at impressive rates with online usage statistics, providing powerful figures that suggests social networking is here to stay. Today 1.5 billion people across the world have their profiles in social networking sites (Das, and Sahoo). As of April 2012, Facebook has reached a capacity of 900 plus million active users (Touryalai) and it is reported that for every six minutes a user spends on the Internet, one of these minutes is spent on social networking (Nelms).
In tandem with this drastic social networking growth, so to have the attacks through social networking sites increased. Cyber criminals target and will continue targeting social networking to take advantage of the immense online user capacity which such sites encompass. Social networking sites have eclipsed web-based email for cyber crimes and these sites are now rated as the third most preferred medium of attacks. Websites are rated first and Peer to Peer networks being second (Casilli). McAfee recently reported that malware directed at social media are some of the fastest growing threats today. In 2010, McAfee detected an average of 60,000 new pieces of malware each day which were directly targeted social networking sites.
Social networks are portals that effectively host a variety of content. They have grown beyond the need of individual users. Now, even as widely accepted by businesses, social networking sites can no longer be ignored. It is important to note, however, that the users’ behavior within the social networking circle is different from their behavior on the internet. Social Networking gives the end-user a great amount of power with regards to personal security. This power, now almost fully handed to the end-user can be seen as another major reason for the immense growth of cyber crimes in social networking. Cyber criminals no longer have to reinvest significant profits into developing new capabilities for circumventing modern security technologies. Cyber criminals now routinely exploit what is considered to be the greatest vulnerability and the weakest link of Social Networking sites - the end user.
Cyber criminals now target users via social engineering techniques via scams and ruses that criminals use to make a user believe they are co-workers, customers, or other legitimate parties. Stealth techniques enable cyber criminals to act without fear of timely detection, let alone capture and successful prosecution. It is among some of the most insidious and profitable of crimes, and can be conducted from a well-equipped workstation, even perhaps within an organization. People have grown wise towards email spam and can readily recognise all the warning signs of a malicious e-mail. However, a lot more people are tricked by spam messages sent by their ‘friends’ on sites like Facebook, as they have a position of trust. End users tend to place a greater level of...