It appears that the folks over at security company Sophos decided to put together an experiment to research the identify theft risks associated with social networking.

Not surprisingly, they found that 41% of users readily hand out information that could be used to personally identify them — to complete strangers.

According to Information Week:

[The] Sophos researchers created a profile on Facebook for a small plastic frog they named Freddi Staur, which is an anagram of “ID fraudster.” Divulging only a small amount of information about himself, “Freddi” sent out 200 requests to a wide variety of other Facebook users, asking them to join the frog’s friend list.

To round-up the results of the 200 contacted, 87 responded and agreed to be friends (To a frog?!)

  • 82% gave “Freddi” an open view of their profiles
  • 72% divulged at least one of their e-mail addresses
  • 84% gave up their date of birth
  • 87% offered details about the location/name of their school or work
  • 78% gave their current address

The concern here, as highlighted by Ron O’Brien, senior security analyst at Sophos, is that such information could potentially provide the essential elements to gain access to people’s personal accounts. Additionally, knowing a specific target’s interests could also allow hackers to design targeted malware or phishing e-mails that they know the user would be enticed to open.

Somehow, I do not find that surprising. I mean, if people click on an advertisement promising them a malware infection (My TechAtPlay Blog), what more can you expect?

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