This tweet, from The Economist, “Long Life Spam: The Changing Landscape of Online Fraud” (Nov. 18, 2010), got me thinking about the chances we take when we surf the web with abandon:
Spammers also have become more sophisticated about exploiting trust. In few places is it granted more readily than on social-networking sites. Twitter, a forum for short, telegram-like messages, estimates that only 1% of its traffic is spam. But researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana show that 8% of links published were shady, with most of them leading to scams and the rest to Trojans. Links in Twitter messages, they found, are over 20 times more likely to get clicked than those in e-mail spam.
Facebook apparently is not immune to online fraud either. Some “friends,” may be anything but, even if we share mutual friends. There is so much interesting information on the web that the temptation is to wildly click from link to link to dine on the smörgåsbord. I suppose we do so at our peril. Thankfully, because I am a techno-idiot, my security software helps to protect me, but clicking on links still is quite risky. Just recently I clicked on a link in a website I trusted and found myself at a site advertising sex paraphenalia–not what I expected. (An aside: I don’t know what some of that stuff is used for.)
But such is the attraction to cyber-travel that I’m sure one day I will click on something and see my monitor begin to melt, and hear the death-rattle of my CPU.