Students battle Facebook malware with security app

Facebook is among the most phished sites on the internet, according to a 2010 report released by antivirus vendor Avira. Phishing attacks – provocative links posted to people’s Facebook pages by hackers posing as the account holder – jumped by 64 percent in July 2010, the report said.

Facebook accounts for 5.7 percent of all phishing attacks, more than Google or the IRS, but only a fraction of PayPal, which accounts for 52 percent of phishing scams.

Faloutsos  said Facebook frequenters, especially tech-savvy college students, are more aware of common phishing and malware schemes than they were when hackers first employed the tactic several years ago, but as long as malicious posts appear in the ever-changing news feed, the threat remains.

“I believe in general there’s a great lack of awareness when it comes to security,” he said. “Hackers have become better and better at this over time … and their attempts are more clever than ever.”

Campus technologists have long fretted over the malware that can sneak into a college’s network when students click on suspicious Facebook links and give access to hackers trolling for personal information.

“It’s an ever-changing battle for us,” said Jonathan Domen, a network analyst at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., a private campus with about 3,600 students. “It really comes down to getting a handle on it really quickly before people start clicking and things get much worse.”

Raymond Rose, a longtime educational technology developer, said programs designed to monitor social media would be welcomed on college campuses, where Facebook users might be dangerously unaware of internet security issues.

“I’m not sure how many students pay attention to the security issues so, an app has got to help, and it’s important to help all computer users, not just college students, attend to cyber security issues,” Rose said. “Any tool that helps is worthwhile, but campus IT officials should be doing more than encouraging students to protect against Facebook malware.”

Blocking Facebook, campus technology chiefs said, isn’t an option, because so many students use the site for social and educational purposes, connecting to classmates and professors alike.

“We have to walk a very fine line,” said Domen, adding that Bryant’s network blocks students from accessing Facebook applications that are especially vulnerable to malware.