Are Women More at Risk for Spear Phishing Attacks on Social Media?

Sue Marquette Poremba
Slide Show

The Rising Social Networking Security Threat

End users are more aware of the potential threat, but awareness does not necessarily translate into a change of behavior.

I was browsing through some headlines and articles on cybersecurity issues, and this one from UPI jumped out at me: "Ladies at higher risk for social media 'spear phishing'."


After reading the article, I'm still not exactly sure what puts women more at risk than men, but I have a good guess. While it is not said outright, it is likely that women are more open about their personal lives when using social media than men are. And that can make it easier to generate a spear phishing attack that is targeted specifically to your job or your personal interests. Of course, one of the goals of spear phishing is to entice the user to click on a malicious link or open an infected attachment.


I am very disappointed that the article didn't give good, solid reasoning for why women are more at risk than men. From a purely anecdotal point of view, I do notice that my female friends on Facebook are more likely to post warnings or spam-type messages on their wall than my male friends. My female friends are much more likely to post photos and other information from third-party sites, but I'd say all are equally likely to share personal information.


The bottom line, of course, is that anyone who falls for a spear phishing attack while at work is going to put company data at risk. It could open a hole for the network to be attacked. The problem is not whether women are at a higher risk for an attack, but whether or not the potential dangers that lurk in social media are properly addressed in the work place. Do you have policies in place regarding social media use on the company network? Do employees understand the dangers of using third-party applications or clicking on shortened links? Do you have a way of alerting co-workers of potential phishing attacks?


It is true, the more personal information one puts into cyberspace, the more the bad guys have to work with, and it doesn't matter who puts it out there. Social media makes it way too easy to over-share, making it vital that security professionals have a solid security policy for social media in place.

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