Cybercriminals are turning their attention to users of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, according to a new report [pdf] from IT security and data protection firm Sophos.

Spam, Malware Attacks on the Rise

Sophos’ Security Threat Report: 2010 indicates criminals have increasingly focused attacks on social networking users in the past 12 months, with a dramatic rise in the use of spam and malware. Fifty-seven percent of social networking users reported being spammed in December 2009, a 70.6% jump from 33.4% reporting spam attacks in April 2009. Similarly, 36% reported social network-based malware attacks in December 2009, a 69.8% rise from 21.2% in April 2009.

Facebook is Most Feared

When asked what social network poses the biggest security risk, 60% of respondents said Facebook. Another 18% said MySpace, 17% said Twitter, and 4% said LinkedIn. Facebook is the largest social networking site, with an estimated 350 million users.

Despite Facebook’s perceived high risk, 49% of US firms allow employees unfettered access to Facebook at work. In addition, despite the low percentage of respondents saying LinkedIn poses the biggest security risk, Sophos advised that by publicly posting information on corporate structure, companies using LinkedIn can make it easier for criminals to launch targeted attacks on a corporate directory.

Enterprises Unprepared for SocNet Threat

Unchecked social network use poses a threat to enterprise organizations, according to research by Cisco. A recent Cisco global study indicates only one in seven of the companies that participated in the research notes a formal process associated with adopting consumer-based social networking tools for business purposes. In addition, one in five participants identified any policies in place concerning the use of consumer-based social networking technologies in the enterprise, and only one in ten respondents noted direct IT involvement in externally facing social networking initiatives.

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