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News

Climate Reality Campaign Strikes a Social Media Security Nerve

Sophos : 14 September, 2011  (Technical Article)
Sophos is expressing discomfort about the encouragement of poor security practices by global climate change awareness group
Climate Reality Campaign Strikes a Social Media Security Nerve
Al Gore's Climate Reality Project is encouraging social networking users to "donate" their online accounts for what they call "24 hours of Reality."  IT security firm Sophos warns, however, that the social media campaign is in fact encouraging users to allow spam from their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

During the "24 hours of Reality", which starts tomorrow, the Climate Reality Project will be able to access volunteers' Twitter and Facebook accounts to post information about climate change and a global awareness event, with the aim of focusing attention on the "full truth, scope, scale and impact of the climate crisis about climate change."

All users have to do is authorise the Climate Reality Project application, and the project will post a few messages an hour from the user's account.  Volunteers can continue to use their social networks as normal, the messages will be interspersed among regular online activity.

"While I'm sure the intentions of the project are entirely non-malicious, this doesn't feel right at all," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.  "Should people be encouraged to hand control of their Facebook and Twitter accounts to a third party for the day?  To me, that's bad security practice.  Surely the Climate Reality Project would do better to post content of interest, which would encourage Facebook and Twitter users to share tweets and links with their contacts, helping to build upon the campaign in a more authentic way."

"At the best, Facebook and Twitter users are going to be annoyed by their friends auto-posting messages on behalf of the Climate Reality Project," continued Cluley.  "At the worst, imagine if the Climate Reality Project's computers got hijacked - the result could be chaos."

Over 1800 votes were cast in a Sophos poll which revealed that rather than embracing this technique as an innovative way of raising awareness for the project, many respondents feel uncomfortable about giving access to their social network accounts.

Sophos asked, what do you think of donating your social networking account to the Climate Reality Project?  Respondents could tick all that applied.

35% feel uncomfortable with giving a third-party app access to their social networking account, even temporarily

33% said it feels like spam and if they feel strongly about something, they'd rather post it themselves

26% felt that this would irritate Facebook friends and Twitter followers

Only 2% think it's an innovative way to raise awareness about a cause
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