Just as more of us embrace social media, so do the spam bots

After 5 weeks straight of free social media-related webinars, I thought it might be good to step back and remind us of some precautions to take while we're jumping in headfirst. Unfortunately, the more people are attracted to these sites, the more spam and scam artists are attracted as well. When you first get involved with networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, you might feel like everyone is friends with everyone else, without facing the same barriers to entry that exist in closer knit, offline social circles. You might not have seen Julie Chang since the 2nd grade and the star quarterback in high school could have been your biggest bullier in the 10th grade... but that doesn't mean you can't be Facebook friends or follow their tweets! And plenty of social network users go further than to add passing acquaintances by seeking out and accepting new friendships with users they have yet to meet in person.

It's great that these networks provide ample opportunity to create new connections, whether you're simply up for meeting new people or even looking for a job, but much as they try, these networks will never be completely secure. MySpace revealed earlier this month that 90,000 registered sex offenders had been kicked off the site over the last 2 years alone. But aside from creepy men prowling for teenage girls, many of your basic identity theft schemes have been adapted for use on these networks. Infoworld posted a comprehensive list of some of the most prevalent examples of spam on social networks, some more dangerous than others. We broke our own news story two months ago when our CBO and VP of New Buzzness, Dave and Carrie Kerpen, discovered a money-grubbing scheme conducted via a hack through Facebook Chat.

The "Error Check System" is the latest in annoying, suspicious applications, having blasted hundreds of users over the weekend for (supposedly) no other purpose than to get attention. For all we know, somebody could have designed this application to show how easy is it to be fooled by a third party into granting access to your personal information on a social network. Regardless, the fact remains that the number of reports of "rogue applications" or spam bots on sites like these continues to increase. So if you are still getting used to social media, I'm confident that you'll come to love it and being excited about it as much as I am - but please remember not to take your network's security for granted!

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