Social Networks and Instant Messaging – A Fertile Ground for Cybercriminals
Social Networks: India now ranks as the seventh largest market worldwide for social networking and the total Indian social networking audience grew 43 percent in the past yearii. The popularity of social networks is directly proportional to the volume of malware it attracts. One of the primary attack techniques used on social networking sites involved the use of shortened URLs. Last year, attackers posted millions of these shortened links on social networking sites to trick victims into both phishing and malware attacks, dramatically increasing the rate of successful infection.
The report found that attackers overwhelmingly leveraged the news-feed capabilities provided by popular social networking sites to mass-distribute attacks. In a typical scenario, the attacker logs into a compromised social networking account and posts a shortened link to a malicious website in the victim’s status area. The social networking site then automatically distributes the link to news feeds of the victim’s friends, spreading the link to potentially hundreds or thousands of victims in minutes. In 2010, 65 percent of malicious links in news feeds as observed used shortened URLs. Of these, 73 percent were clicked 11 times or more, with 33 percent receiving between 11 and 50 clicks.
Instant messages and instant malware: A growing number of Indian Internet users turning to instant messaging (IM) applications has opened the door for malware that spreads through IM applications and a large number of users are victims of attacks using this vector. W32.Imaut and its family are highly prevalent in the Indian region. This malware sends malicious links that are embedded in messages sent to users found in IM contact lists. Statistics indicate that social engineering tricks that entice users to visit maliciously crafted websites have been quite successful among Indian users.