5 New Online Security Threats to Avoid

Hackers just keep devising new ways to target Facebook and Amazon.com users. Read up on these five threats before you're "spear phished" - or worse.

I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook, so when I got an e-mail from the social networking site telling me "you haven't been back to Facebook recently" and here are some messages you missed, it didn't seem odd. I clicked on the link, wondering what one of my friends was doing.

Oops. I was a victim of a hacking technique called "clickjacking." If it hadn't been for security measures built into Firefox, I might have been in trouble, because rather than going to Facebook, I was headed for http://sleepingpillsfitnesspills.com.

That site might have simply been an ad for cut-rate, Canadian pills — an annoying, but harmless detour. But it also could have been a site loaded with malware, include rogue applications designed to steal key personal information from me and people in my address book.

Facebook, with its hundreds of millions of users, has become the target of hackers, spammers, and just plain crooks. They're trying to lure you in via scam surveys, fake applications and poisoned links, according to a report by Sophos Security.

Unfortunately, Facebook is far from the only popular Web site being compromised these days. Amazon, the giant e-tailing site, inadvertently left a door open that hackers could use to steal your password and get access to your credit card info.

And no matter what you've read about those evil Russian hacker rings, it turns out no country is the origin of more cyber attacks than the United States, according to Akamai's quarterly "State of the Internet" report.

Here are five new threats, including three that target Facebook users:

1. Clickjacking: Sophos Security says this is one of the most common attacks hitting Facebook users. These attacks use maliciously created pages where the true function of a button is concealed beneath an opaque layer showing something entirely different. Often sharing or "liking" the content in question sends the attack out to contacts through news feeds and status updates, propagating the scam.

In my case, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, I could have avoided the scam page by simply noticing that the address of the e-mail allegedly sent by Facebook was obviously phony. update+qqlvvtxikjpp@facebookmail.com. The lesson here is obvious: When you get an e-mail with a link, notice the return address. If it seems odd, delete it. Additionally, keep your browsers up to date; all are doing a better job screening out dangerous stuff, and since they're free, why not take advantage of that protection.

2. Fake surveys: This scam is related to clickjacking since it attempts to make you click on something dangerous via a misleading message. Typically, the scam starts with a provocative (sexual or otherwise) message. Here's one that Sophos highlighted recently:

"OMG! Look What this Kid did to his School after being Expelled!

After this 11 year old child was expelled from his school he went berserk." Well, that's intriguing.

However, you have to "like" the page and fill out a quick survey before reading the story. Whoops: you just gave scammers a commission for filling out the survey, and helped the scam spread by sending it to all your friends. The survey earns money for the scammers; they get a commission for every survey completed. And that's why they're spreading this message virally across Facebook.

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