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Prateek Walia, Hindustan Times
Chandigarh , August 03, 2013
With Friendship Day round the corner, activity on social networking websites has been on the rise but with this so has the risk to stalkers and hackers in the virtual world. The friend request sent by that interesting stranger on Facebook may just have a lot more to it than interesting. It can possibly be a hacker who befriends you and then uses information gathered from you to hack your account, e-mail id etc.

The most at risk to such online elements are people who accept friend requests from strangers with whom they share a mutual friend or have similar tastes.

While there are fairytales of marriages fixed on Facebook, the threat perception is high. A SAS Nagar resident who does not wish to be named says she had once accepted a friend request from a fake id and her account had been hacked.

"My ex-boyfriend had sent me that request from a fake id. Once he was in my list, my Facebook and e-mail account were hacked. He also posted lewd comments from my profile," she says. "I ended up reporting the matter to police and had to close both the accounts."

Swati Chaudhary, a post-graduate student at Panjab University, says she signed up on Facebook to track down a friend she had lost touch with. "But there are strangers who want to befriend you. I get 3-4 requests from strangers every day," she says.

Data with Norton, a computer security company, shows that occasions like Friendship Day and Valentine's Day provide what the company describes as "cyber goons" an opportunity to circulate malicious links to fool the ever-increasing number of Internet users, especially those on social networking websites.

Norton Cybercrime Report (NCR), 2012, reveals that 83 per cent Internet users in India believe cybercriminals set their sights on social networks. Also, 15 per cent users have fallen prey to a scam or fake link on such websites.

Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, Punjab deputy inspector general of police (cyber cell), says, "Hackers are finding new ways to lure less-aware users. Fake IDs are the easiest way to do this as Facebook does not demand authentication."