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Researchers have revealed the extent to which new social media websites and features have led to a new range of online scams and threats. Here are the top three threats users should look out for when joining a social network.

Security researchers reveal the rollout of new social media sites and features are leading to a fresh crop of online scams and threats. Online security company PC Tools has predicted three top threats that consumers should be on the lookout while joining, logging in or engaging on social networks:

1. Email alerts for ‚tagged‚ photos where YOU might appear online

Social networks are developing increased intelligence for facial recognition to assist with tagging photos. When you’re tagged in a photo or at a location in your photo album, you can often expect an email or notification letting you know where to view it online. Take caution. Cybercriminals may be using this as a tactic to get you to click on malicious links asking for information‚Äîpossibly even prompting you to click on a link leading to a fake login and password entry form posing as your social network.

2. Online robots or ‚bots‚ on social networking sites will be more sophisticated

PC Tools believe within the next few months that social media ‚bots‚ will become more advanced, effectively creating human-looking profiles and personalities. Cybercriminals rely on bots because they are the fastest and most cost-effective way to spread malware, spyware and scams through social network sites.

Through these bots, criminals can auto-create bogus personalities on social networks, which can in turn link to fake companies that sell products‚Äîall to trick users into buying merchandise that isn’t real or spreading news that doesn’t actually exist.

3. An increase in fake invites to join ‚new‚ or ‚exclusive‚ social networks or social groups

New social networks are popping up every day, some of which are ‚invite only‚ making them more appealing. Cybercriminals could use this appeal as a method to lure users into clicking on fake invites for exclusive networks. Upon clicking on these invites, users could be asked to provide personal details such as name, login, password or birthdates which should not be released.

‚If you’re looking to join the hottest new social network, be careful where you click‚Äîyour personal life may be at risk,‚ said Richard Clooke, Worldwide Reviews Programme and Public Relations manager (EMEA) at PC Tools. ‚Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the buzz surrounding these new social networks and features by tricking unsuspecting users to divulge personal information or download malware.‚

Clooke added that today’s malware looks legitimate, but what may seem like a harmless email or link can actually result in a person’s stolen identity or credit card data theft. According to Pew Research, 46% of internet users agree that ‚most people can be trusted‚ ‚Äîa prime reason why cybercriminals are so successful at duping consumers.

PC Tools’ award-winning technology detects and blocks malware and alerts users to websites that might host web threats. PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2011 defends your computer with multiple layers of protection to stop threats at every entry point and Internet Security 2011 blocks new threats faster than traditional security products, while Browser Defender protects against web-based attacks like phishing attempts and malicious downloads.


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