Don’t you pine for those simple days when the line between software and malware was pretty easy to delineate? Consider these news items:
The trouble is that as these attacks proliferate, it gets harder to differentiate them with legit situations where people are just making dumb mistakes. Consider the situation where a new social networking user doesn’t understand the very optional step when he or she signs up and is asked whether or not to send email invitations to their entire address book. In just a few seconds, a simple task of joining the network has turned into an annoying one sending out hundreds of unwanted emails. Sometimes this step isn’t explained well in the sign-up process, or sometimes people aren’t paying attention. Either way, it isn’t malevolent; it is just a stupid user error.
Or take instant messaging, which seems so quaint now that there are lots of other networks out there. Yes, there are malware programs that propagate through IM, and there are security products that protect IM networks too. But nothing can stop human stupidity in how these IM networks are used, particularly if you store your IM login credentials on a family computer that is shared by several people. One of my colleagues has been having IM conversations with the wrong people some that have gone on for ten or 15 minutes, before he realized he was talking to the intended’s spouse or kids. Why anyone leave his or her IM account wide open in this way is hard to understand. But it points out that just because someone is signed into IM, doesn’t mean that they are there. Remember, on the Internet no one knows that your dog hasn’t logged instead of you.
Then there are sites like omgxd.com that use your login information for IM networks, supposedly to make it easier to connect but in reality spam all of your contacts on your buddy list. Heyxd.com is another one. I have tried to find out whether these two sites are legit or have some sinister purpose. I can’t really tell, but I would recommend steering clear of both of them.
So the next time you get an email or IM or text message asking you to download a greeting card, update your Flash player, or do something else, take a moment to stop and think whether this is a request that you should just hit the delete key and move on. You don’t need to be the latest victim of a new social networking disease.
David Strom is an expert on Internet and networking technologies who
was the former editor-in-chief at Network Computing, Tom's
Hardware.com, and DigitalLanding.com. He currently writes regularly
for PC World, Baseline Magazine, and the New York Times and is also a
professional speaker, podcaster and blogs at strominator.com and WebInformant.tv
David Strom is an expert on Internet and networking technologies who was the former editor-in-chief at Network Computing, Tom's Hardware.com, and DigitalLanding.com. He currently writes regularly for PC World, Baseline Magazine, and the New York Times and is also a professional speaker, podcaster and blogs at strominator.com and WebInformant.tv