40% of Facebook Users Bite the Clickbait

Malware, adware, browser hijackers, pretty much all types of malicious content on the Web are spread by infected connections. These infections can be prevented if users just abstained from clicking on the junk links. Sadly, a lot of users are prone to click on connections from unknown sources for no better reason than pure curiosity, according to a recent study.

Facebook and Careless Link Clicking

The study was conducted by the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in Germany. The researchers studied the behavior of students while browsing the internet. They studied the Internet behavior of 1700 FAU students. 56% of the participants who received an email from an unknown sender opened it. 40% of the surveyed clicked on unknown links on Facebook. Why would people do this? It isn’t because they don’t know that opening unknown links on the Internet is bad. The researchers asked the participants if they are aware that clicking on these links if dangerous, as 78% of them answered positively. So why did they click? They’re just curious.

All the links opened in the study were created by the researchers. The emails and the Facebook connections were masked to look like they were photos from a party. They bore the click-baiting title “photos from a New Year’s Eve party?! Bring it on!!” and a picture from the party as a thumbnail. Some of the participants claim that they were at the party in question, and that’s why they clicked. Others reported that they didn’t click to protect the privacy of the people in the photo.

User Behavior and Security

The study only confirms something that’s widely known in the cyber-security circles. People aren’t careful about what they click on. Since the Internet is something people use every day, it’s easy for users to fall into a false sense of security. The internet is filled with stupid click bait, and they’re not limited to the “one weird trick” variety. The reason for this is simple – it works. People are naturally curious and clicking on a link doesn’t seem like such a big deal. According to the study, most people who clicked on the unknown connections don’t even remember doing so. One virus distributed with the help of the Google Adsense network.

Facebook and Malicious Links

The social network still uses the Flash player for some of its functions. Flash player is known for being unsecure, to the point where HTML5 has replaced a lot of it’s functions. The giant video sharing service YouTube did it a few years back, and Google Chrome will remove Flash support later this year. Taking into account the massive user base of the social network, attacks, scams, and viruses are inevitable. However, that doesn’t mean users are completely helpless. Our advice is to skip any clickbait content as a rule. The chances of stumbling into worthwhile content from click bait connections are much, much slimmer than contracting a virus or simply falling into a malvertising loop (a page filled with apps that only opens more ads when the user tries to close it.

Alex Dimchev

Author : Alex Dimchev

Alex Dimchev is a beat writer for Best Security Search. When he's not busy researching cyber-security matters, he enjoys sports and writing about himself in third person.


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