As we all know by now, the exploding popularity of social networks has changed both our personal and professional worlds. Our days of communicating with instant messaging and emailing have evolved into a cloud of simultaneous sharing and interacting with the world. However, there’s another changing aspect that we tend to overlook in our dynamic and exciting environment: security.
The Dangers of Social Network Hacking
Unsurprisingly, the amount of hackers and scammers attacking our accounts has increased with the use of social networks. What’s dangerous about social network hacking is the nature of social networks itself. The whole point of social networks is to build a network by digitally connecting and interacting with one another. Users connect to each other in some sort of fashion (whether it be through “friending” in Facebook, “following” in Twitter, etc.). Users then interact with their friends or followers in many different ways, depending on the social network being used (“sharing”, “commenting”, “liking”, “poking”, etc).
Hackers and scammers primarily target these means of communication by attempting to gain the user’s trust or appealing to the user’s interests. For example, a hacker could appeal to users by creating a fake Facebook account of a US soldier, then “friending” all users who “like” Facebook pages that support the US military. If a user accepts the fake request, the hacker now has control of the user’s account as well as access to all of their personal information. To make things worse, the hacker could continue to spread his scam by “sharing” a malicious, disguised link with all of the user’s friends. When falling under this viral pattern, the number of infected users multiplies exponentially and can reach thousands, or even millions, of accounts within the social network.
How to Prevent From Being Hacked
With all the excitement in the social media world, we tend to get trigger happy when it comes to accepting friend requests, sharing resources, and following the latest tweets all while forgetting about the dark, malicious side of the Internet. So what steps should we take when browsing and interacting through a minefield of hackers and scammers?
Social network users, as well as any other Internet surfers, should use this general rule of thumb: be cautious. If a request or link seems sketchy in any sort of way, (you don’t personally know the person “friending” or “following” you, you see a strange difference in their profile format, the content is “too good to be true,” etc.), then avoid it. As long as you use caution and common sense while navigating through the web world, the chances of getting hacked or scammed become slimmer.
Possible Solution: Hire a Hacker?
On the flip side, an article posted a couple days ago reported that the notorious Sony Playstation 3 and iPhone hacker George Hotz has recently been hired by Facebook as a software engineer. The author suggests that this move could create a trend in security: “Facebook’s move could indicate a shifting paradigm in the way technology companies view would-be hackers, and begs the question: Is talent still talent even if it’s misguided? (Source)”
The thought of big technology corporations beginning to hire hackers seemed highly unlikely at first. Would CEOs really want to put the fate of their company into the hands of talented troublemakers? What are the chances of hackers giving away secrets or sensitive company information to their hacker friends? Hotz was also not a “malicious” hacker; he simply hacked his own iPhone and Playstation 3 mainly for fun, but believed “hacking into someone else’s server and stealing databases of user info is not cool” (Source).
Apparently, other big companies have already started hiring young talented hackers responsible for a variety of damages. Technology corporations such as Facebook and Apple are possibly taking the high-risk road by employing hackers, but the rewards can be immense. The fact that these young, amateur developers broke into professionally developed and tested security systems cannot be ignored.
When pushing them in the right direction, companies who hire hackers could benefit greatly by picking their brains and learning the weaknesses of their current security system. These savvy developers could assist in drastically improving the company’s current system, as well as in developing the next generation of security concepts and technology. If the companies are willing to take the risk, they could even use their ex-hackers to hack into their competition’s security systems (how ironic would that be). These hackers could very well be the next pool of resources companies will look in to find their next brilliant developers.
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