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Red flag on planned Facebook changes

Red flag on planned Facebook changes

Five new features will drive more interaction among users, but raise several privacy and security concerns.

Facebook’s planned changes from this year’s f8 Developer Conference may risk flooding the site with Twitter-style spambots and cause an increase in targeted attacks on its users, warns security software provider BitDefender. Announcements at the f8 Developer Conference with take the social networking site into new usability and privacy dimensions with upcoming features such as: Subscribers, News Ticker and Wall facelifts, as well as the star of the conference, Timeline and the new Open Graph.

But Catalin Cosoi, head of BitDefender’s online threats lab says the new features could lead to a rise in privacy and security breaches.

BitDefender lists the security implications for these features:

• 'Smart Lists' will prompt users to share more information publicly, but will also have the adverse effect of supplying ammunition for targeted attacks.

Smart Lists encourages people to complete their profile with details of their career, work projects, where they went to school or which city they live in. Every time someone creates a list with colleagues from a specific job, this is tagged in their profile. Of course, this is generally not confidential information, and the user has the final decision on whether to approve or reject the tag. But having this information public and indexable will make it much easier to create sophisticated, targeted attacks.

• 'Subscribe' could increase the number of spambots, just like on Twitter.

The recently introduced subscribe feature lets Facebook users follow people of interest, much like Twitter. It also allows your updates to be followed by others, even if they are not friends with you on Facebook. But with the introduction of Twitter-like features, BitDefender says Facebook users may see an increase in the number of Twitter-like threats and annoyances too.

• Everything you have ever shared on Facebook is now available and easy to browse.

If the default settings are not changed, to restrict who can see your wall, the content will, by default, be available for anyone to see. Friends, photos, places you have checked in, relationships and much more. It’s important for Facebook users to be aware of this privacy setting when using Timeline, and adjust this accordingly in order to protect their profile information.

• Widgets can open the door to interactive scams. Until now, anyone who had an application installed could only interact with other users within the app. Now, the app is on the user’s wall, so anyone who interacts with the user profile can also interact with the app. This isn’t a concern for legitimate apps, but the ease with which they can be accessed may lead to fake or scam apps spreading quickly through the social network.

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