Research by US IT security firm Sophos has found that four out of 10 users of online social networking site Facebook would readily divulge personal data over the network that could expose them to the risk of identity fraud.
Boston-based Sophos says after setting up a fictional account on Facebook it sent out 200 "friend requests" to users to observe how many people would respond and how much personal information they would divulge.
Sophos says 87 of the 200 Facebook users contacted responded to its request, with 82 (41%) leaking personal information such as phone numbers, data of birth and e-mail addresses to a complete stranger.
Around 84% of respondents listed their full date of birth, while 87% provided details about their education or workplace and 78% gave their current address or location.
Commenting on the findings, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "While accepting friend requests is unlikely to result directly in theft, it is an enabler, giving cybercriminals many of the building blocks they need to spoof identities, to gain access to online user accounts, or potentially, to infiltrate their employers' computer networks."
Cluley says the Facebook experiment produced enough information to create phishing emails or malware specifically targeted at individual users or businesses.
Paul Johns, chief marketing officer, Complinet, has also warned of the dangers of Facebook users handing out information online. Johns says Facebook profiles already provide more than enough personal data to allow fraudsters to steal identities and establish fraudulent bank accounts.
You can read Johns' article here: Facebook fodder