Viruses are spread through programs and platforms that are most commonly used because of the law of numbers. Cybercriminals know that the more chances you have to spread the virus, the higher the impact it will have. So they attack things that "everyone" uses. This is a big reason why Windows PC's have a higher rate of viruses over the Mac. Does this mean you should toss your PC? Not at all! It does mean that we should take everything said online with an extra grain of salt.
McAfee, a popular antivirus software company, said: "Cybercriminals have long picked on Microsoft products due to their popularity. In 2010, we anticipate Adobe software, especially Acrobat Reader and Flash, will take the top spot." in its report (PDF).
Many of the apps and games found on social networking sites are created using Flash. The popularity of those apps and games combined with the popularity of social networking sites makes it a perfect place to target, if you were a hacker.
How can you protect yourself?
- -- Make sure your virus software is up to date. Most software that is available has regular updates available from the company's website. All of the virus protection software that I am familiar with has an option to automatically update the software every time there is an update. I like this option - takes out an extra step for me to do. If you think you may have downloaded a virus, run a virus scan.
- -- Don't trust everything you read online - even if it looks like it is from your friend. If you get a random request from a friend asking to do something unusual on your profile (or email, or anywhere else), question your friend. It is possible your friend's profile was compromised and the hacker sent the request (in hopes you will help further disburse the virus they are spreading)
- -- Report things that are viruses or you think might be a virus. Most social networking sites have a way to report violations. The companies normally work to get the viruses added to virus databases which, in turn, protect future people from that virus.
- -- Many companies offer similar things, but AOL does have a good product suite for safety and security, including free parental controls, free spam control, and free to paying members and discounted to everyone else, there is McAffee security suite.