Business professionals are being warned to create and maintain online profiles in all the major social networks in order to mitigate the risk of criminals impersonating them and mining sensitive corporate and personal information.
The Annual Threat Report (PDF) from content security firm Aladdin warned that, with reconnaissance tools readily available to online fraudsters and huge amounts of public data available on the web, impersonating or misrepresenting personal and business identities has never been easier.
Ian Amit, director of research at Aladdin's Attack Intelligence Research Center, explained in the report how his team set up fake online identities which "ended up connecting to the real network of acquaintances rather easily".
"The damage potential of this phenomenon will be devastating, both on the personal level by creating difficulties in employment, ruining social and professional connections, damaging reputations; as well as on a financial level, such as stealing customers, corporate data," he noted.
"We predict an increase in the amount of web identity hijacking and, in response, a serious change in the requirements for validating our identities on the web."
Amit advised professionals to create and own their profiles in the major networks "before someone else does", and to link them to each other in order to ease the maintenance involved in their upkeep.
He also advised caution when accepting friends into a network in case the profiles in question are fakes, and said that individuals should contact site administrators immediately if they discover a suspected fraudulent profile.