Microsoft warns about Social Network viruses and data theft

The next time you are prompted to enter your facebook or twitter password after clicking on some nice ad, make sure the location bar of the browser says ‘’ or ‘’

Gone are the days of alluring emails asking you to part with your bank account details to claim your million dollar prize, cyber criminals now prefer to ‘hang out’ at your favorite social networking site.

According to the Security Intelligence Report — a quarterly security-related update from the World’s biggest software firm Microsoft — social networks accounted for 84.5 percent of all attempts to steal personal data from users in December 2010.

In comparison, only 8.3 percent of all such attempts — knows as phishing — occured through Social Networks in January 2010. There has been an increase of 1200 percent in phishing through social networking sites, as these venues have become lucrative hot beds for criminal activity, the report warns.

The attacks take the form of advertisements and links on Facebook and other social networks — legitimate marketing campaigns and product promotions, but are actual just traps to steal your data. They take the form of pay-per-click schemes, false advertisements, or fake security software sale.

‚ÄúSocial networking is on a high and cybercriminals and these sites have creates new opportunities for cybercriminals to not only directly impact users, but also friends, colleagues and family through impersonation,” says Sanjay Bahl, Chief Security Officer, Microsoft India.

The ultimate aim is to get users to download and install their programs, which will then make use of their computer to spread itself as well as to steal all kinds of data entered through the computer. Social networking viruses, Microsoft points out, is especially risky in India since the country has some 50 million (5 crore or 4% of the population) social networking users.

Interestingly, Microsoft owns 5% of Facebook — a site whose revenues may be hit if people stopped clicking on its ads.

According to the report, the most common category of unwanted software in India was Worms, which affected 42.5 percent of all infected computers, down from 45.4 percent in the last quarter. Worms are self-replicating programs.

The second most common category in India was Misc. Trojans, which affected 33.9 percent of all infected computers, down from 34.5 percent from the last quarter. Trojans, which may also be worms, also have the additional characteristic of being harmful to the user and are often used to steal data.