First half of 2013 sees massive spike in social media spam

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Facebook and YouTube are the social networks most likely to serve you up a hot plate of spam, according to a report.

In the "State of Social Spam," an initial study by Nexgate, a San Francisco-based enterprise social media security firm, researcher's analyzed 60 million pieces of social content published on over 25 million social accounts – including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and discovered that the first half of 2013 saw a 355 percent jump in social spam, with 15 percent containing URL's to pornography and malware.

“One of the interesting things that really stood out to me was the growth rate,” Devin Redmond, Nexgate co-founder and CEO, told SCMagazine.com on Tuesday. “The other thing is the variety of mechanisms and how sophisticated it's gotten. The mechanisms in which it's distributed, an app or a fake profile, there are so many ways it's getting out there.”

So, which social media websites are the most affected? Facebook and YouTube come up as the hardest hit in the report. Those two sites trumped the competition by offering up more spam than any other social network at a ratio of 100 to one.

According to the report, Facebook has the most personally identifiable information and, consequently, the most phishing attacks, while YouTube contains the most risky content, including profanity, threats, hate speeches and insults.

The spike in social spam can be attributed to the value of social media increasing dramatically, Redmond said, adding the more attention something gets then the more people will want to exploit it.

“This is a newer and easier avenue to be exploited and this is where the eyeballs are going,” Redmond said. “It legitimates the fact that social media is beyond here to stay. It's also the fabric of a company's website. [Organizations] have social media sites [and are] putting money into social advertising.”

Much like technology was created to combat email spam, technology will need to be created to fight off social spam, Redmond said, adding that Nexgate social spam reports have been written with these ideas in mind.

“Most organizations are dealing with this problem manually,” Redmond said. “We definitely need a technology-based approach.”

Email spam and other traditional avenues are pretty static from last year, Redmond said, adding it should continue to be a presence in the future.
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