Boundless information: Mining social networks
Boundless information: Mining social networks

Social media sites are filled with valuable assets that must be protected, reports Jim Romeo.

A man named Joe Parrish had a Facebook page with 27 friends listed. Not long ago, he posted a comment on his wall about a recent visit he had with his sister.

Sounds harmless, right? In fact, there are innumerable similar messages posted everyday on many different social media sites throughout the web. Only problem here is that Joe Parrish is an inmate at the state's Pocahontas State Correctional Center within the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC), serving a 16-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Parrish was able to update his page by relaying information to family members, who colluded with him in posting the information. When DOC officials became aware of the activity, they had the page removed. But the fact is that social networking remains fertile ground for the many with a criminal mindset – even for those who have been caught.

“Social networks create a new type of communication structure – one that encourages openness, sharing, collaboration and cooperation,” says Ed Amoroso, senior vice president and chief security officer of AT&T. “These are wonderful goals, but unfortunately sometimes create special challenges for security teams. The security goal should be to ensure that proper controls are in place for emerging social networks – beyond the ‘friend model' we see in many common systems, and that these controls maintain the original collaborative objectives.”

Take a look at the U.S. Secret Service's 10 Most Wanted list, and you'll find a common pattern: fraudulent activity. This most often occurs not with a loaded gun, but in the form of a nonviolent crime where someone, often in a far-off nation, used their ability to capture information from some infrastructure to steal personal information or assets. For example, the wanted list describes a Hong Kong man who parlayed his knowledge of a health care company to steer claims payments directly to his own account in Asia.