Blog , 20 Jan 2022

Is Social Networking a Security Risk for you and your business?

Isla Sibanda,

Content Creator

Data on the use of social networking websites vary, but chances are someone in your company uses at least one type of social media. 

According to Pew Research, for example, 69% of Americans use Facebook. 

However, using social media does not come without risks, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 81% of executives stated that the pandemic had caused them to bypass cybersecurity measures for their organization.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common ways social networking and social media can create security risks, for businesses and individuals, that you need to be aware of.

1. Lack of Privacy Settings and Oversharing Information

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most common ways social media platforms can represent a cybersecurity risk is through oversharing information. 

Sharing a video of your daughter learning to ride her bike may be a great way to keep relatives up-to-date on those special moments, but it can tell malicious actors a lot about your life if your privacy settings are not in order.

For example, publicly sharing information can expose your home address, where your children go to school, or whether or not you live alone. 

An effective way to protect yourself is by ensuring that you enable privacy settings that limit access to who can view the information you decide to share online. If this isn’t something you confidently think you can do yourself, you can hire a developer to enable your privacy settings across all of your accounts and profiles as well.

However, this general rule of thumb to limit access to your profiles to friends and family may not be enough nowadays. Oversharing information can be equally as dangerous. When you share private information you are giving others access to what might be the questions to common security questions. And even if you trust everyone you share information with, there is no guarantee that your friends share the same interest in keeping your data safe.

Social Media Privacy Settings

2. Potentially Compromised and Fake Accounts

This is a great time to explain how even your close friends can potentially become a security risk on social media. It’s happened to many people, perhaps even yourself, but social media accounts can often become compromised or may even be used by imposters. 

Compromised accounts are one of the biggest cybersecurity risks. Scammers use many tricks and tools to convince you to give up your information. 

An increasingly common trick involves sending private messages telling people to pay them with Bitcoin. Usually, the accounts appear to be real, but they are often stolen or manufactured and only appear to be real at the surface.

Once an account is compromised, it’s used to send spam, phishing, and malware to other people. This process allows bad actors to gain access to even more accounts, thereby compromising others and allowing their reach to grow. The best way to avoid threats from potentially compromised accounts is never to click on suspicious links.

3. 3rd-Party Apps as a Security Vulnerability

Another way you can be exposed to security risks on social networking platforms is through third-party apps. 

This common trick often involves scammers and hackers creating questionnaires, then using the collected information to breach bank accounts and other vulnerable digital accounts.

Facebook quizzes aren’t the only type of third-party apps to be aware of, though. Analytics tools used to measure traffic can also create vulnerabilities, and automated publishing tools like Hootsuite can be another way your information gets shared with others.

In 2018, hackers targeted access tokens utilized by apps like Spotify and Instagram. At the time, there did not appear to be evidence that any apps were affected, but the possibility remains regardless. 

In 2020, third-party analytics apps used by Twitter users were compromised and gave hackers access to the Olympics and the International Olympic Committee’s Twitter accounts. Granting third-party access to your accounts’ information inevitably creates an additional attack vector for hackers. 

4. Hackers Leverage Security Risks

As mentioned before, third-party apps are vulnerable to being hacked, but so are your social media accounts themselves. Often, the threats mentioned above lead to hacking.

OurMine, an infamous hacking collective, accessed HBO’s Twitter and Facebook accounts in 2017. The group then caused serious damage by leaking episodes and scripts related to HBO’s hit show, Game of Thrones. OurMine has also been responsible for hacking big-name figures like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Once an account has been hacked and compromised, it is then used to take over other accounts through additional hacking and other tactics like phishing. So again, don’t click on any links that seem suspicious to you.

5. Social Engineering: An Increasingly Common Risk

Social engineering often does not get mentioned as a risk related to social media networking, but it is one of the cleverest ways your information can be put at risk. 

Essentially, is when a hacker or cybercriminal manipulates someone to give up personal or confidential information, which is then used for fraud or other illegal purposes.

In this scenario, the hacker, or “social engineer,” will pose as someone else or pretend to be the victim’s friend. Once they have gathered enough information, they begin using it for nefarious purposes.

Sometimes hackers will gain their victim’s trust and then use malware to get access to their social media accounts. In this scenario, they trick victims into opening files that steal their information and send it straight to the hackers.

6. Untrained Employees and a Lack of a Social Media Cybersecurity Policy

Finally, the greatest vulnerability and security risk comes from people themselves. 

More than 50% of all devices in the workplace are mobile, and, each year, 4.3% of company-issued mobile devices are stolen or lost. 

A lack of a social media policy contributes to increased security risks because it may lead to employees engaging in the behavior (online or in real life) that puts your information at risk.

A lack of policy on company-issued devices also creates an additional point of cybersecurity weakness as employees may mistakenly access websites loaded with malware or open emails or links that expose them to phishing.

Establishing guidelines for how employees talk on social media and instructing them to avoid Facebook quizzes that seek personal information can be excellent ways to prevent hackers from accessing your information. 

By creating a clear set of policies and procedures for social media, you can help mitigate security risks endemic to social media platforms.

So.. which steps should you take on social media to limit your vulnerability?

Having your social media profiles protected may seem easy at first, however, there’s another layer to it: the non-obvious steps that you can take to manage security risks on another level.

Here are the steps you can take to mitigate the risks:

  1. Enable Privacy Settings
  2. Don’t reveal private details that indicate where you live
  3. Don’t disclose information to non-verified accounts
  4. Avoid clicking on links sent to you via message
  5. Verify 3rd Party Apps & Online Quizzes
  6. Implement a social media policy
Social Media Risk Assessment Checklis

Even when we believe that we are protecting ourselves to the full extent on social media, it’s important to recognize patterns and identify new scam and phishing trends across the internet.

To stay alert, we recommend keeping up with the latest news and always making sure that you are protected following the previous steps. 

For business managers, the ideal scenario is to run a security analysis every month, and subscribe to the emailing lists of your third-party apps to stay ahead of cyberattacks.

Summing Up the Cybersecurity Risks of Social Media

Overall, social media is an excellent way for people to connect with each other. It enables brands to interact with their customers directly and provides a meaningful way to share your life with friends and family. However, there are several potential security risks that everyone should know about.

Sharing too much information and failing to enable privacy settings can both increase your exposure to threats. 

Finally, watching out for third-party applications and avoiding clicking on suspicious links is also important.

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