Social media

Lurking Cyber Threats on Social Media

These platforms which were designed to connect people within their families andsocial circles, are now posing a threat to security.

Where there is value, there is a risk of threat. According to a report by Social Media Perth, a surge in cyber criminals activities has been witnessed when it comes to gathering information through social media channels.

After all, the surfeit of data on social media platforms is a veritable treasure chest today. As surprising and unfortunate as it may sound, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter are not safe anymore. These platforms which were designed to connect people within their families andsocial circles, are now posing a threat to security.

The cyber threat landscape is undergoing a change and the tactics used by cybercriminals is expanding and simultaneously innovating. These range from ransomware to encrypted threats.According to a study by Juniper Research, the collective cost of data breaches is expected to reach $5 trillion by 2024 with a huge share coming from social media.

Potential threats on Social Media

The cyber threats on social media can broadly be categorized in two parts:

1. Privacy Related Threats: Most of the social media users tend to share their personal information on social media platforms. The information revealed may involve their locations, important dates, pictures, addresses as well as personal mobile numbers. This acts as ready fodder for hackers to intrude into lives and use it for various scams like we see coming out of West Africa. In the past, we have seen how security breaches on Facebook and Twitter have been used to serve political and financial agendas. Some examples of threats may include:
Reconnaissance: It is considered difficult to detect as it is conducted passively on the social media. It is done when an individual share his/ her personal information in excess, helping the hacker to collate and analyze behavior of the victim. This consequently helps the attacker steal crucial information in the form of malicious links.
Social Engineering: This involves psychological manipulation of users or employees into sharing confidential or sensitive data. By forming an understanding of a person’s interests via social media, the cybercriminal attacks the user on email invoking urgency, fear or emotions to reveal sensitive information or by impersonating a senior official in their company.
2. Conventional Threats: Traditional or conventional threats could be seen in two ways- personal security and system security. Some of its common forms include:
Fake Profiles: This is one of the most common forms of attacks. Apart from posing a threat to individuals, it poses a huge threat to CXOs in organizations. As CEOs/CFOs play a prominent role in instructing employees and seeking confidential information, fake profiles take advantage of this and cause a huge financial/reputational damage to the organization.
Fake News: Again, from the organizational perspective, this continues to be one of the major sources of damage. Fake news has existed in the past however, social media has given it an unprecedented legitimacy. Reputation plays a critical role in an organization’s brand equity, but one fake news can make them pay a huge cost.
Malicious Links: Information theft via malicious link baiting has become rampant of late. These links are presented to the users in an unavoidable manner and are known to have paved the way for some of the biggest scams. These links may easily access our account details or other confidential information even before one realizes. These activities have become very common on social media and can easily be found in innocuous statements such as:
Click here to know who viewed your profile;
Click on the link to know what people are talking about you;
Cyber-bullying: This causes a major attack on the personal security and has been on a rise ever since Internet gained popularity. Any act of humiliation, sharing of vulgar messages or pictures, mental or sexual harassment on social media falls under this category.  

As per SonicWall’s 2020 Cyber Threat Report, Facebook is the social media platform with highest number of security attacks and the reasons behind these are many:

Users are unaware of the importance they should give to the disclosure of theirpersonal information.
Users do not know the potential threats and privacy settings required to manage those threats.
Lack of understanding by policy makers in addressing issues and inadequate investment in technology by organizations to deal with cyber-threats.

Way Out

More technology-driven we become; more security threats will come our way. One simple reason behind this is the ease that technology provides – an opportunity to peep into someone’s life. It has been found that social media platforms provide much more ease in the distribution of malware in comparison to any other website.

Clearly, the answer lies in the problem. With the introduction of Personal Data Protection Bill(PDP) in India, social media platforms will be required to tighten their protection policies. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter will become stringent against hackers and take definitive steps to stop distribution of malware by strengthening cybersecurity.

The proposed bill has many aspects that can help reduce social media risks for individuals. Itwill regulate personal data which includes any information collected online or offline to identify a person such as name, address, phone number, location, shopping history, photographs, telephone records, food preferences, movie preferences, online search history, messages, devices users own, and social media activity. While the organizations will be mandated to keep a track of the volume of data coming from the customers, conducting periodic security audits, appointing a data protection officer, and performing data protection assessments as per legal requirements and government regulation, social media platforms will also have to ensure that users verify their accounts.

Vigilance as an individual social media user and stricter policies as a policymaker are the only solutions to fight hackers and create a secure and safe social media experience.

Author: Debasish Mukherjee, VP Regional Sales- APAC at SonicWall

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