By the numbers: How dangerous are Facebook, Twitter, and search engines (really)?

In his presentation titled "The dark side: Measuring and analyzing malicious activity on Twitter and Facebook," Daniel Peck, research scientist with Barracuda Networks, delves into the details of how cybercriminals trap people on social networks. Peck's research also uncovered that user perceptions of social networking security contrasts drastically with actual membership rates, which you can read about in Facebook may be scary, but we love it anyway.

Here are some of the highlights of Peck's data on malicious activity on Facebook, Twitter and search engines.

[Also see 5 more dirty tricks: Social engineers' latest pick-up lines and 5 more Facebook, Twitter scams to avoid]


1 in 100- The proportion of posts on Twitter are that are spam or malicious.

60 percent --The number of so-called "bad" urls on Twitter that turn out to be spam. Other bad Twitter urls include those intended for hacking (19 percent) and those that contain spyware (11 percent).

1 in 1000 --The drive-by download occurrence of bad Twitter URLs.

43 percent -- The number of true users on Twitter. 57 percent are classified as "other" by Peck's analysis, and include spambots or other types of fraudulent account creators seeking to use Twitter as a means to phish or trap people with malware.

66 percent -- The percentage the Twitter "crime rate" increased from late 2008 to early 2009, a period also known as Twitter's "Red Carpet" era when it saw its biggest uptick in account creation. Twitter crime rate is the percentage of accounts created per month that are eventually suspended by Twitter, said Peck.

[See our guide to Social media risks: The basics]


1 in 60 -- The number of posts on Facebook that are spam/malicious.

91.9 percent -- The number of respondents who report having received spam messages on social networks. 54.3 percent reported being phished on social networks and 23.3 percent said they have received malware.

Up to 50 -- The number of people that can be tagged in a Facebook photo or post, a common tactic used to get user attention and then lead them to a malicious link.

1 in 5 -- The number of respondents who said they had been negatively impacted by information exposed on a social network.

Search results

1 in 1000 -- The proportion of search results that lead to malware over the course of the 153-day analysis Peck conducted.

1 in 5 -- The proportion of topics that lead to malware.

38 percent -- The percentage of malware found by Peck that was from Google search results when Peck conducted the 153-day analysis searching thousands of popular topics. Conducting the same searches on other search engines, 30 percent of search results turned up malware-laden links on Yahoo, 24 percent on Bing and 8 percent on Twitter.

17 percent -- Percentage of results that lead to malware when searching the terms "music+video".

Other popular search terms that lead to a large amount of malware included "jenni+jwoww"--a cast member on the show "Jersey Shore" --at 15 percent and "NFL" at 10 percent.

Tags social mediainternetFacebooktwitterInternet-based applications and servicesBarracuda Networks

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