Social Networking

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What Is Social Networking?

Online social networks are applications whose defined purpose is to build relationships with individuals using a number of modern Internet tools. They build revenue through online advertisements and the sale of processed data gathered from users.

These applications are becoming increasingly popular; as of January 2007, claimed over 130 million members, and is growing at a rate of approximately 160,000 new users per day.

Known Major Social Networking Sites

The following are statistics from major social networking sites, (May. 2009) 100+ million users.
Profiles, Relationships, Groups, Videos (Feb. 2008) 80 million users.
Profiles, Relationships, Groups, Videos (Jan. 2007) 40 million users.
Profiles, Relationships, Blogging (Jan. 2007) 36.5 million users.
Profiles, Relationships, Groups (Jan. 2007) 29 million users.
Profiles, Relationships, Groups (July 2010) 500 million users.
Profiles, Relationships, Pictures (Jan. 2011) 19 million users.
Profiles, Relationships, Groups, Blogging

List of All Sites

Information Provided and Received

Most social network sites require users to authenticate themselves; they must provide some sort of proof they are least human. Therefore, many sites ask for a username, password, and valid email address.

However, some sites also provide users a place to enter much more information. For instance, encourages users to enter their full name, home address, alternate email addresses, current and former schools, friends, spouse, schedule, interests, groups, photos, and much more.

While many social networking sites provide privacy safeguards, they are usually turned off until activated by the user. Therefore, the information provided by one user can easily be obtained by other users (the declared point of social networking).

This wealth of information can lead to stalking, data mining, phishing, and cross-site scripting attacks.

Data-Mining and Spear Phishing

Phishing is a form of identity theft, usually carried out through email meant to look legitimate. These emails direct users to fraudulent sites designed to mislead them into disclosing personal information such as credit card numbers, passwords, and social security information.

In the case of social networking sites, hackers target a single user in what is known as "spear phishing". In this attack, the hacker will gather information from a profile containing a wealth of information, then use that information to create the scam. An example of this would be scanning the list of a user's groups, then sending an email asking for reconfirmation of personal details to remain in the group.

All social networking users should learn how to distinguish between what is and is not a legitimate email. Take a look at the Security 101 course for more information.

Identity Theft Resources

Identity theft is a serious crime that should be met with serious action. In the event that your identity is stolen or compromised in any way, seek immediate assistance from the Federal Trade Commission and utilize the resources at the Identity Theft Resource Center

Take a look at some other resources on the web,

Federal Trade Commission


Internet Keep Safe Coalition

National Cyber Security Alliance


Wired Safety