Two out of three online U.S. households use social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, nearly twice as many as a year ago, according to the latest Consumer Reports State of the Net survey.
But millions who use these services put themselves and their families at risk by exposing very sensitive personal information, according to the national survey of 2,000 online households conducted in January by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Here are the details:
Those findings provide a reminder that it's still important to use the best anti-malware software available.
Overall, we estimate that cybercrime cost American consumers $4.5 billion over the past two years. And it caused them to replace 2.1 million computers.
With social networks expanding the online opportunities for criminals, the price of cybercrime stands to grow even more. "We're just at the beginning of seeing what the implications are for so much information being posted on social networks," says Nicole Ozer, the technology and civil liberties policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
But crime on social networks need not skyrocket. Protecting the vast majority of consumers doesn't require developing any technology, as contending with viruses and spyware did during the past decade. It requires the networks themselves to keep improving their privacy practices and better educating users. (For tips on protecting yourself, see 7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook).