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Infographic: Social network users provide all the info a hacker needs

Social networking sites are a hacker's dream: an online community where unsuspecting people post personal information. But what information can and should be posted on social networks?

Cloud security firm Trend Micro examined popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Pinterest and found that most require identifying information like location, employment, birthday, and education. Tumblr is the only site that does not ask for any details, aside from username.

According to Trend Micro, one in four Facebook users location-tag their posts each month, while 16 per cent of Pinterest browsers offer their address. The two sites also carry the same average of 229 friends or followers.

In the US alone, more than 20 million Facebook users include their birthday in their profile, which can be the key for hackers to infiltrate your network, or other personal data.

Birthdays, schools, and family members are the most-shared topics in the social networking world, Trend Micro reported, followed by hometowns, favourite entertainment (TV shows, musicians, books), vacation plans, and pet names – almost all candidates for possible password combinations.

There are consequences to making information publicly available, Trend Micro said. Identify theft, cyber bullying, and targeted advertising can all stem from providing personal data on a social-networking site. Not to mention cybercriminals who may be looking to burgle your home during your next holiday, which you bragged about on Twitter. Hiring managers might also turn down a candidate because they posted Facebook references to illegal drugs or alcohol consumption.

Some people are already taking precautions. A recent Pew Research Center survey pointed out that a growing number of smartphone users are taking steps to ensure their mobile data security.

For more, check out the infographic below.