Symantec: Government adoption of social-media apps threatens security

The increasing adoption of social-media tools like Twitter and Facebook by government agencies increases the risk of a cyber-attack, according to a report from the security firm Symantec.

Symantec warned that the shortened URLs used by social networks could open up systems up to attack because users don't know where the links will take them. In addition, hackers can take advantage of mobile applications by sending malicious code that poses as a legitimate application.

Symantec's annual security threat report warned that foreign nations appear to be sponsoring highly targeted and sophisticated attacks, which the firm classified as cyberwarfare. Examples included the Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuclear program and the Hydraq Trojan used in an attack on Google.

“Stuxnet and Hydraq, two of the most visible cyber-events of 2010, represented true incidents of cyberwarfare and have fundamentally changed the threat landscape,” said Stephen Trilling, senior vice president of Symantec Security Technology and Response.

“The nature of the threats has expanded from targeting individual bank accounts to targeting the information and physical infrastructure of nation states.”

Trilling's comments echo the words of National Security Agency Director and U.S. Cyber Command boss Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who told lawmakers last month the threat of cyber-attacks that cause physical damage is now real and greater than ever.