Messaging security firm Cloudmark has released a list of the "seven deadly sins of social networking spam", now frequently being employed by spammers.
The list is based on analysis of the billions of messages that Cloudmark scans for its social networking customers each day.
The spam ranges from traditional nuisance spam to more insidious phishing and malware attacks on consumers' social networking profiles and pages.
The methods of these attacks are usually staged by the spammers either creating fake accounts or directly hacking into legitimate users' accounts.
Often the form of the attack will be seen in a combination of "friend" requests, wall posts, private messages and social networking applications.
"There are steps that consumers can take to stop themselves falling victim to the seven deadly sins of social networking spam, but the only fool-proof way to protect users from attacks is for social networking sites themselves to have effective security solutions in place," said Neil Cook, EMEA head of technology services at Cloudmark.
"Only by stopping all forms of online abuse can social networking sites be confident that both the platforms and subscribers are protected against today's known abuses and tomorrow's advanced threats."
The seven deadly sins of social networking spam:
- Dating spam - a personal message, often from a woman, to a male social network user inviting them to start a romantic relationship. Once contact is secured, this attack proceeds in much the same way as bride e-mail scams
- Profile and IM lures - spammers act as legitimate friends or potential new friends interested in getting to know the user in order to lure them to a fake profile page or Instant Messenger conversation
- Redirection to inappropriate or dangerous websites - a message is sent to a user, warning them that photographs or rumours about them have been posted on an external site and urging them to go to the site to view
- Nigerian attacks - similar to Nigerian 419 spam traditionally seen over e-mail, social networking users are targeted with messages alerting them to a fake inheritance or access to a rich stranger's fortune
- Fake jobs - sending personal messages or wall posts, spammers, posing as an employer, offer social network users fantastic job opportunities in order to spark conversation that will allow an avenue for further spam, phishing, malware or scams
- Competitor social network lure - invitations that seem to be from legitimate friends are sent to users via wall posts or personal messages urging them to visit virtually unknown social networking sites
- Religion-based spam - spammers use social networking sites to preach to, and attempt to proselytise users for various religions.