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Online dating increases cyber-crime risk

Date: 2006-10-05

An overwhelming majority of adults who take part in online dating sites or other types of social networking are unwittingly exposing themselves to hackers or identity thieves, according to a survey released today that is described as a first look at such networking.

About 83 percent of adults engaging in social networking online are downloading unknown files from other peoples' profiles, potentially opening up their PCs to attacks, according to the survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance, a non-profit organization that promotes cyber awareness, in Washington, D.C., and CA Inc., the Islandia-based software company.
The survey of 2,163 adults 18 and older was described by NCSA and CA as "the first social networking study examining the link between specific online behaviors and the potential for becoming a victim of cyber-crime." The survey was conducted by Russell Research of Manhattan Aug 25-28 and Sept. 5-7. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.1 percent.

The NCSA said the survey was part of an effort to kickoff "National Cyber Awareness month" in October.

Most adults -- 57 percent, according to the survey -- who use social networking sites say they worry about becoming a cyber-crime victim. Nonetheless, some 74 percent have revealed some type of personal information, such as e-mail address, name or birthday, the survey found.

The survey also found that most parents -- 51 percent surveyed -- do not take care to restrict their childrens' social networking profiles so that only their friends can view them. The survey said that such profiles are open to potential predators.

And, the survey said, 36 percent of parents do not monitor their children on social networking sites at all.

Social networking sites are also no longer used solely by teenagers. According to the survey, 48 percent on such sites are now adults. And, the survey said, 53 percent of adults who use such sites are over the age of 35.

"Those who frequent these sites should be aware the data they share may make them prey for online attacks," said Ron Texeria, the NCSA's executive director, in a statement. "Giving out a social security number, paired with a birthday and name, could provide enough ammunition for criminals to hack into financial records and compromise users' personal information," he said.

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