Study: Facebook users are easy targets for identity theft

Facebook users give out personal information too readily

Users of the Facebook social-networking site are too gullible in giving up personal information, which could make them the targets of identity theft, according to Sophos research.

Sophos fabricated a Facebook profile and asked 200 Facebook users at random to give up personal information. Sophos says its probe involved setting up a profile page for "Freddi Stauer," an anagram for "ID Fraudster," displaying a small green plastic frog that divulged personal information about the fictitious Freddi. Using Freddi as the front, Sophos sent out 200 friend requests to find out how many people would respond and what kind of personal information could be collected from the Facebook users.

"It's extremely alarming how easy it was to get users to accept Freddi," said Ron O'Brien, senior security analyst at Sophos, which makes security products for antimalware and network-access control for business.

Out of the 200 friend requests, Sophos received 82 responses, with 72 percent of those respondents divulging one or more e-mail address; 84 percent listing their full date of birth; 87 percent providing details about education or work; 78 percent listing their current address or location; 23 percent giving their phone number; and 26 percent providing their instant messaging screen name.

Sophos says in most cases, Freddi also got access to respondents' photos of friends and family, plus a lot of information about personal likes and dislikes, and even details about employers.

Facebook users were all too willing to disclose the names of spouses and partners, with some even sending complete resumes. One facebook user divulging his mother's maiden name -- the old standard used by many financial and other Web sites to get access to account information.

Most people wouldn't give this kind of information out to people on the street but their guard sometimes seems to drop in the context of a friend request on the Facebook site, O'Brien says.

According to Sophos, the results of what it calls its Facebook ID Probe has significance for the workplace as well as personal life because businesses need to be aware that this type of social-networking site may pose a threat to corporate security.

"They can put a significant strain on the network and can also expose confidential corporate data to malicious outsiders," O'Brien says.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?