FBI: Cyber Thieves Mine Info from Social Networking Sites like Facebook

The social networking site, Facebook, recently reached a new milestone: 500 million users.

That’s 500 million people liking, friending and posting online. That also means millions being scammed and having their personal information mined and shared.

According to Gordon M. Snow, the assistant director for the FBI, cyber thieves are using data mining on social networking sites as a way to extract sensitive information from victims. They do it many different ways, but one of the most popular and easiest for miners is the “Getting to Know You” quiz.

“While the answers to these questions do not appear to be malicious on the surface, they often mimic the same questions that are asked by financial institutions or e-mail account providers when an individual had forgotten their password,” Snow recently told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

Access to someone’s e-mail may be all a criminal needs to then gather information about bank accounts and credit cards.

Many times, victims aren’t’ even aware the money taken from their bank accounts was done with information mined from a social networking site or even a smartphone.

“In most cases people have no idea how their identity was stolen,” Karen Hunt, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Victorville station said. “Although it’s possible (social networking hacking or mining) may have been the component that started it.”

Data mining, or the gleaming of public information is not illegal, according to officials.

Recently, the names, profiles and URLs for 171 million Facebook accounts were collected from publicly available information and uploaded as a torrent or file-sharing application.

Ron Bowes, a security consultant at Skull Security, was able to legally gather the information electronically to show how vulnerable most social networking site users are.

As of Thursday morning, there had been more than 10,000 downloads of the torrent information.

According to Bowes, the problem becomes those with malicious intentions can use this public information as a jumping off point to then search and find more information about the victim.

But it isn’t just social networking sites that are affected.

Smartphone apps can also mine a person’s phone for subscriber information such as SIM card numbers and passwords.

One in particular is a wallpaper app created by Jackeey Wallpaper for Android which allegedly mines users’ information and according to PC World, is being sent to a domain registered in China.

The creator of the application denies all claims and said in a recent interview with Android Tapp, only information about the device is captured.

Just as there are antivirus programs for computers, people can also find similar software for their smartphones, such as Lookout. -Daily Press

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