Facebook users fall for rubber duck's friend request

People still haven't learned that social sites are criminal gold mines, says security firm

Facebook users haven't learned to keep their personal information private, a security researcher said today after his company conducted a test that sent randomly-selected people a friend request from bogus accounts.

One of the account profiles sported only an image of a yellow rubber duck, while the other was represented by a pair of cats.

The test conducted by Sophos was similar to one the firm did two years ago, said Graham Cluley, a senior technical consultant at the U.K.-based security vendor. In the 2007 test, 41% of the Facebook users who received the request from "Freddi Staur," represented on Facebook by a toy frog, divulged personal information, such as their e-mail address, date of birth and phone number to the stranger.

In 2009, up to 46% of the people pinged from a pair of made-up accounts -- one allegedly a 21-year-old single woman, the second a 56-year-old married woman -- responded to the friend request. A majority of those who responded gave away their full date of birth and their e-mail address.

"It looks a little bit worse now than before," said Cluley, referring to the numbers of Facebook users willing to part with personal information. "It was staggering, actually."

The two separate requests -- each aimed at 100 randomly-chosen contacts in the two fake users' age groups -- also illustrated the difference between younger and older users on Facebook. Although the 50-something crowd responding to the request from "Dinette Stonily" were less likely to give out a fully-fleshed date of birth, they were three times more apt to hand out their phone number.

Relatively few people in either group -- just 4% of the group replying to 21-year-old "Daisy Feletin," and 6% of the older users -- gave out their full street address, however.

The "Daisy Feletin" profile used an image of a toy duck as the account holder's photograph.

People just don't seem to get it, Cluley said, no matter how many times they're warned that identity thieves and other criminals troll social networking services like Facebook for useful information. "Sometimes it seems that we're in a classroom, and all the students are donkeys," Cluley bemoaned.

"Ten years ago, it would have taken a con artist weeks, maybe with the help of a private investigator, to come up with this kind of information. Or diving in garbage bins," said Cluley.

Now, however, people see services like Facebook as entertainment. "They think they have nothing to lose, giving out information, but you have a lot to lose," Cluley warned. "People have to remember that the Internet is, to some extent, public. Criminals essentially have a one-in-two chance of getting information without even trying."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Facebooksocial networking

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?