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How Social Media Affects Your Cybersecurity

Social media platforms are enriched sources of information. Due to this, they are quite prone to cyberattacks and are a threat to individual or organizational cybersecurity. 

Although most often data is targeted, the cybersecurity risks with social media can spread beyond that to monetary frauds and hate crimes. Let’s go into details of each one and discuss how you can be safe from those.

Phishing

Phishing attacks are most prevalent on social media platforms. Phishing is when a malicious link appears in your proximity that you click and end up being a victim of fraud or network breach. 

Most internet users have grown aware of the malicious links sent through emails. The attacks are now being manifested through social media platforms where users potentially are more culpable.

Two types of attacks, namely spear-phishing and whale phishing, are the most common phishing attacks on social media accounts. 

Spear-Phishing

Spear phishing victimizes an organization or an individual with ample strategic data about them to increase trustworthiness. A typical social media spear-phishing attack consists of a tactfully designed customized message and a malicious link. 

Before initiating the attack, they gather substantial out-of-office info. They learn about the format used in social media by the company to increase the chances of their victim clicking the link. 

Once they’ve successfully lured the victim in, meticulous methods are used to gain access to the network. 

Cybersecurity agencies like OT Cybersecurity Solution by Industrial Defender specialize in monitoring networks and vulnerability management to mitigate the attacks proactively. 

Whale Phishing

In contrast to spear phishing, whale phishing targets the top executives of different organizations who are considered a “whale”. The methods employed to fish prominent individuals are similar. But the severity can vary depending on the position and personalized data available on them.  

The phishing attacks can be proactively blocked before infiltrating your system by giving your employees cybersecurity and social media training.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is not a type of active attack in itself. It’s more like a strategy that’s employed to gain the trust of the victims in order to extract sensitive information from them. 

Social engineering neither needs technical knowledge nor extensive past information on subjects to be executed successfully. Having a believable story is often enough to extract information and act fraud if the victim isn’t aware. 

An example may include the deep fake attack on UK Energy Company to fraudulently transfer $243,000 to the attacker’s account. The criminals–as bizarre as it may sound–used AI to use the voice of a senior official to execute the attack. 

Social engineering is mostly dependent on building trust. Periodic employee training and exams are mandatory to ensure that your corporation or employees don’t fall prey. Social engineering attacks can be discovered in several forms, including but not limited to: 

Impersonation

The method of falsely representing a person is referred to as impersonation. The attacker impersonates close personnel to the victim to extract sensitive information.

The impersonator tries to gather information on the victim from social media and websites. And designs a social engineering attack that’s compelling and effective. 

The most prominent impersonation attacks include representing an IT help desk person to offer services like password changing and credit card renewal. 

Tailgating

Tailgating is a more physical method than impersonation. The attacker uses employees and their access control to gain access to unauthorized places in the organization. They might pose as an employee who’s lost their keys, or portray similar scenarios to gain access. 

Social media is the source of information for attackers. They vet the victims to understand their reactions through social media. Attackers don’t usually risk getting caught by targeting someone who strictly follows protocols. 

Reverse Social Engineering

As more and more organizations are getting aware of the social engineering efforts being made by attackers. They’ve developed their game to be more precise. Nowadays, they pose as cybersecurity experts. 

They offer their fictitious services to prevent social engineering attacks to extract sensitive information from you. 

Baiting

Baiting is more dangerous than phishing but is tougher to execute for the attacker. Baiting includes a physical device (USB drives) that needs to be inserted into the system physically. The attackers, by tailgating, can get access to systems that can be used to harm the whole network. 

Vishing

Vishing is voice phishing. The incident of the UK Energy Company is an example of that. Vishing attacks impersonate well-known companies or executives to get access to sensitive data or harm the victims financially. 

The most common roles vishing attackers play are IRS executives, IT service persons, and utility services. They often target children and non-tech individuals. They target the ones who don’t understand that an online ad flashing that your computer has a virus isn’t trying to be helpful. 

DDoS Attacks

Social media has nurtured DDoS attacks on organizations. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a strategically designed attack that tries to tarnish a brand’s image. The attack associates the brand with negative PR events or blocks down their websites. 

For instance, a social media photo of a weaponized Caterpillar Bulldozer was seen being used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. DDoS attackers made sure to besmirch the brand’s name with war and destruction and campaigned against the company to stop delivering the Bulldozers.

Account Hijack

Hijacking social media profiles to access, modify, or impersonate an individual is nothing new. For that, social media platforms have started to implement two-factor authentication and device authorization. These methods can keep attackers at bay.

Cyberbullying

Blackmailing and cyberbullying through social media are significant threats to any organization or individual. Compromising images, sensitive news, and everything that can be used to blackmail and bully a physical person can be used on social media. This information is used to extract information or money. 

The Bottom Line

Social media can be used by cyberattackers as a great tool for gathering, manipulating, and distributing information about individuals and organizations. 

The risks associated with social media and cybersecurity involve the following:

  • Social engineering
  • Phishing
  • DDoS attacks
  • Cyberbullying
  • Account hijacking 

Despite being prevalent in many forms, training yourself and your employees is a great starting point. In addition to that, keeping track of brand mentions is the best approach to stop the attacks before they can be initiated. 

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