In this article, we'll go over the inherent security risks businesses face on social media and steps to prevent them from happening.
Social media is a valuable marketing asset, but we rarely see companies taking extra steps to safeguard accounts from hackers. 37% of social media users trust fellow users’ opinions before buying online and this is the same trust that gets broken when a company suffers a security breach.
Trust is the ultimate currency in digital interactions, and brands must do more to keep the user experience safe and secure. In this article, we'll go over the inherent security risks businesses face on social media and lay out steps to prevent them from happening.
Business accounts in social media are always under the radar of hackers trying ingenious ways to break in. Here are 5 of the most popular security risks you might be facing today:
There's a good reason phishing as cybercrime has survived so long. Hackers only require a small error in decision-making to get into the accounts of victims and if we know anything it's that people rarely hold their composure under stress. Phishing emails and SMSs mimic authentic sources to establish trust and force victims into reacting by sounding urgent. Last year, a Twilio employee disclosed internal data by clicking on a fake SSO SMS.
Malware attacks are widespread because link and document sharing are core parts of digital interactions. Employees are often duped into clicking fake links that, apart from stealing login data, can install malware on devices. Malware can stay undetected for months, eating away resources, stealing sensitive data, and spreading across devices within the same network.
Social engineering attacks take months to execute but they have the biggest impact on your business. These types of attacks pick up data snippets over a span of time to reverse engineer profiles that can help hackers.
For instance, hackers can observe your employees for months and single out one who overshares online and is not conscious of privacy. After that, they can scrape personal details such as birthdays, pet dog’s name, or school from their profile and try them as passwords. In some cases, hackers get lucky and your business becomes a victim of a well-organized social engineering attack.
If your business relies heavily on social media marketing, smartphones have to be a critical part of that workflow. Attackers can try shoulder surfing (snooping in public) or SIM swapping to take over the victim's phone data and all the accounts tied to the phone number. If privacy is lax, hackers will try different ways to compromise devices.
Besides, make sure to choose a reliable hosted phone system provider, with an extra layer of protection against social engineering, fraud, and scams.
If your social media accounts are hacked by cybercriminals, the impacts will be manifold. The first, obvious impact is data loss. Be it internal documents, user data, financial details, or intellectual properties, hackers steal anything noteworthy to them.
Another aspect of the impact concerns personal data. Hackers can steal confidential details of employees and customers, mimic their personally identifiable information (PII) to commit fraud and identity thefts, or sell the data on the dark web.
Finally, you have to account for the reputational loss. Social media attacks happen in public—if the all-important trust gets broken, consumers may never return to your brand. Companies such as DigiNotar, Code Spaces, and The Heritage Company were vastly different from one another but there's one thread that connects them—all of these companies were attacked by hackers in the last few years and none of these companies exists today.
The good thing is that hackers are not all-powerful faceless threats that I may have led you to believe so far. Yes, it's important to be aware of cybersecurity risks when using your company handles, but it's also important to know that you can prevent most of these attacks with some simple steps. I have sorted the preventive measures as technical, employee-based, social media privacy-focused, and monitoring and response based.
The technical fixes are not overly technical but require some sort of technical awareness to plug the loopholes.
This may sound obvious, but secure passwords in 2023 look a lot different than they did a few years back. A truly secure password will have at least 12 alphanumeric characters, special and unique strings of characters, and no easy-to-guess personal information.
Make secure passwords a mandate across your company and encourage everyone to change passwords periodically along with using a password manager.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security. MFAs can be exhausting to use every day but the risks far outweigh the inconvenience. Hackers often use MFA fatigue attacks to target users with a barrage of 2FA notifications and some users get tired and approve the request. Make sure your employees are aware of these tactics and refrain from reacting immediately. It's important to educate on internet safety rules to protect your personal information and prevent cyber attacks.
Even though most social media websites and apps have 2FAs built-in, it's a good idea to use reputable apps such as Google Authenticator, Duo, Microsoft Authenticator, and Authy.
Network security involves many things so make sure you tick all the boxes. Use a firewall, VPN, identity theft protection service, anti-DDoS hardware, and encryption service along with password-protecting the routers and using virtualization for secure browsing sessions. Extend mobile device management (MDM) to protect remote devices and enforce VPN in public wifi. Don’t rely on off-the-shelf security measures and always use custom settings to protect the network.
Technical fixes are just the start. Your business and social media accounts are as secure as the people using and accessing them. Here's how you can turn employees from a security liability to an asset:
Employees must be armed with the knowledge, experience, and tools to identify and mitigate cyberattacks. One way you can help employees stay up to date with the cybersecurity landscape is by conducting frequent and comprehensive seminars. The training modules must cover the fundamental risks of digital interactions, vulnerable endpoints (smartphones, access management, etc.), and response strategies. Security-aware workforce is an asset that'll pay you back over the years.
Compromised links and attachments are integral parts of phishing scams so it's important to double-check before clicking on anything. On the desktop, you can hover over links and buttons in emails to see a link preview at the bottom of the screen. If you're not sure of a link or have already downloaded a file, run them through VirusTotal to be sure.
Employees should also be extra cautious about clicking on links sent to social media inboxes and be proactive in deleting spam links from comments.
Not all cyberattacks are triggered by employees and it's important to focus on mitigation rather than retribution. That’s why employees must be empowered to report suspicious activities immediately. A couple of months back Reddit was hacked but the victim employee reported to authorities immediately and helped the team contain the damage.
Apart from vigilant employees, you should also tweak the default settings online to make social media safer for your brand and followers.
Privacy settings help you mitigate the risks of social engineering attacks so it's important to review and change them frequently. Employees tasked with handling social media must keep their own accounts safe by limiting what they share online and restricting profile access to trusted contacts. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and even Discord allow accounts to customize profile behaviors and users should make full use of these features.
Spam comments and messages from fake and harmful accounts must be reported to the platform to see any meaningful changes. Your employees must be comfortable with reporting objectionable content that may harm the brand and user experience. Apart from reporting, you should also use geo-blocking to restrict access to specific posts and information.
A big part of secure social media experience is proactive monitoring. Since it's difficult to contain a social media cyberattack from the public eye, employees and admins should try to prevent an incident from happening in the first place.
Reputation management in social media involves monitoring how your brand is perceived by people online and reviewing posting guidelines to create a consistent and trusted identity. Since image is everything in social media, you cannot risk it.
Use social listening tools, track and respond to mentions, and control how your brand comes across to people. Based on the data you can change your strategy, strengthen security and address user objections.
With constant monitoring of social media performance, you also get to detect fake accounts and attempts at account spoofing and takeovers. Executive spoofing and CEO frauds are on the rise and social media profiles work as gateways for hackers. Use social listening tools to identify unusual activities and take action.
Once you detect a security incident or find a potential threat, you need to react quickly, efficiently, and comprehensively.
The first thing you need to do is get in touch with the social media platform and work with them to establish your identity. Hackers take over accounts to promote content that may ruin your business reputation so it's important to reign back control as soon as possible. If one of your employees is targeted and the business accounts are safe, first isolate that account by removing access and then move to the next step.
The implications of a hacked business can be severe, so you need to get in touch with local law enforcement agencies. This may push hackers to step back and help you control the narrative. Investigation legitimizes the attack, which allows you to get to the center of the problem and may even garner sympathy from users.
A good incident response strategy depends on how robust the communication plan is. Have every step documented, personnel identified and teams notified to tackle cyberattacks. Go over the strategy during training and maintain a transparent feedback loop to improve crisis management.
Social media cyberattacks raise a lot of eyebrows so it's important for businesses to recover access first and communicate with stakeholders. By implementing the technical fixes, training employees, and working with a proper incident response plan you can identify attacks in advance and mitigate the damage in case of an attack.
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Every week, Emily interviews top brands, renowned influencers, and hidden agencies with one goal in mind: to understand what happens backstage of their social media strategies.Listen to esm2