By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Scams focused on Facebook users have tripled over the last year, according to internet security experts AVG. Also on the watch list for the Czech-based security firm are tablets and smartphones, which are being treated as secure despite their open nature.

In a warning reminiscent of Professor Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody from the Harry Potter series, AVG preaches ‘constant vigilance’.

“As the Internet’s second most visited web site, Facebook is an obvious target for cyber criminals. [The first quarter] of 2011 saw a continuing increase in attacks on Facebook users.

“Clickjacking scams have increased in frequency from once a week to once every other day, and defence from these scams requires constant vigilance.

“Profiles without suitable privacy settings are liable to be exploited by marketers or cyber criminals and could be used for identity fraud.”

Clickjacking is a particularly nefarious scam, in which code is embedded in seemingly harmless links on webpages. For example, a Facebook user might click a link to watch a video, but they are actually granting the scammer access to their computer.

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Smartphones and tablets are again the subject of AVG’s preaching. Although both are essentially computers, users tend to treat them as being invulnerable.

“A recent survey carried out by AVG and The Ponemon Institute found that a third of smartphone owners are unaware of the increasing risks posed by malicious software, with only 29 per cent having considered protecting their device, and their data, with a free or paid anti-virus program.”

AVG didn’t provide further details, such as sample size or location, of this survey, so it’s hard to objectively assess its merit. It is true, however, that malicious software exists and is targeted at smartphones, so there is a market for these anti-virus programs.

Here’s AVG’s ‘Security Evangelist’ Lloyd Borrett.

“The use of these open technologies poses a great risk, since they are constantly connected and substantially less protected than when using a personal computer,” he said. “Users tend to shrug off mobile security solutions and carelessly broadcast financial, account and other personal data, such as their exact location, while on the go.”