Online social networking sites are hacker playgrounds

LAS VEGAS, August 8, 2008 (AFP) – Computer security researchers on Thursday warned that online social networking websites are playgrounds for hackers who can easily take advantage of people’s trust. Opportunities for mischief abound as users place intimate details of their lives on profile pages and install mini-applications made by strangers that don’t always have their privacy at heart.

In a trend pioneered with tremendous success by Facebook, social networking websites have opened their operating platforms to let outside developers craft fun, hip, or functional software “widgets” that can be added to profile pages.

Malicious code can be hidden in such applications, computer security specialists Nathan Hamiel and Shawn Moyer said at a premier Black Hat conference in Las Vegas.

“I can’t necessarily attack Facebook or MySpace, but I can attack their users all day long,” Moyer told AFP. “Don’t put anything on a Facebook account that you don’t consider public.”

People are prone to place faith in social networking widgets and links from friends, said Idea Information Security consultant Nathan Hamiel.

“People are going nuts adding applications they don’t need,” Hamiel told AFP.