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Attacks/Breaches

9/6/2016
10:00 AM
Nick Hayes
Nick Hayes
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Why Social Media Sites Are The New Cyber Weapons Of Choice

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can't secure their own environments, let alone yours. It's time to sharpen your security acumen.

Cyber criminals run rampant across every social network today. We often see headlines about social marketing fails and celebrity account hacks, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Far more nefarious activity takes place across these social channels, while most organizations remain oblivious and exposed. Companies’ poor social media security practices put their brands, customers, executives, and entire organizations at serious risk.

Let’s look at the numbers. According to Cisco, Facebook scams were the most common form of malware distributed in 2015; the FBI said that social media-related events had quadrupled over the past five years; and PricewaterhouseCoopers found that more than one in eight enterprises suffered a security breach due to a social media-related cyber attack.

The first thing you must come to terms with is that social networks can’t secure their own environments, let alone yours. As much as they aim to mitigate security threats and terrorist propaganda on their platforms, they aren’t close to 100% effective. For example, Facebook reported that for 2015 up to 2% of its monthly average users—31 million accounts—are false, Twitter estimates 5%, and LinkedIn openly admitted, “We don’t have a reliable system for identifying and counting duplicate or fraudulent accounts.”

Despite this, social networks remain some of the most trusted channels online. Data shows that consumers implicitly trust people’s activity on social media more so than on any other communications channel. This is why social media sites are now a treasure trove for cyber criminals: The attackers now have incredibly broad reach and can easily manipulate users and execute a variety of widespread cyber attacks and scams, including everything from social engineering to exploit distribution to counterfeit sales to brand impersonations, account takeovers, customer fraud, and much more.

The point is that cyber criminals now weaponize social media sites and their data, leading to some of the biggest data breaches over the last few years. For example, LinkedIn was a key tool for reconnaissance (the scraping of public social data and social engineering tactics) for the cyber criminals who executed Anthem Health’s 2015 breach and its 80 million stolen records, while Twitter was an integral component of an innovative malware exploit dubbed “Hammertoss.” This technique has even been rumored to be connected to the Pentagon’s data breach last summer that took down the security agency’s 4,200-employee email server for two weeks while undetermined amounts of data were stolen.

Sinister Threats
While social media sites may not create completely new cyber threats, they do substantially amplify the risk of existing ones. From reconnaissance to brand hijacking and threat coordination, cyber criminals have been using social media to boost the effectiveness of their attacks for years. It’s clear that social media risk isn’t solely about brand and reputation damage but is a sinister cybersecurity threat that can lead to major data breaches, numerous compliance issues, and large amounts of lost revenue due to fraud and counterfeit sales, along with a slew of other risks.

So what does this all mean for your brand? Both security professionals and marketers alike should start treating social channels like the dangerous security threat they truly are, and align strategies to effectively fend against the range of cyber techniques currently in use. A first step in the right direction is to develop a framework and assess your social risk plan. Identify your most valuable social assets and customer touch points, and develop technical capabilities to continuously monitor them for signs of compromise and behavioral abnormalities.

But don’t stop there. To truly build an effective social media security plan, you need to understand your external risk environment and scour social channels for cyber threats outside of your direct control—be they doxing attempts, brand impersonations, or physical security threats to your employees or top executives. This should be done while also seeking feedback company-wide and coordinating with a range of stakeholders across legal, compliance, operations, and finance to ensure that all bases are covered.

Remember, social media is still in its infancy. Bolster your social media security acumen today so you’re better prepared for new social media exploits and innovative techniques that cyber criminals are sure to develop in the months and years to come.

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Nick Hayes is an analyst at Forrester. His research is dedicated to helping risk professionals and other business leaders understand and manage customer-facing risks in order to build more resilient brands. He has extensive knowledge of the security, privacy, archiving, and ... View Full Bio
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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
9/6/2016 | 7:21:33 PM
FB
A Facebook friend of mine (or, rather, his FB friends) recently fell prey (sort of) to an FB scam.

I received a FB invitation from this FB friend of mine (who is a relative).  I accepted -- thinking all the while, "Gee, I thought I was already friends with him").

Immediately, I got a FB message from him asking me how I was.  I replied appropriately.  I asked in turn.  He said he was really excited.

That's weird.  About what? I asked.

He told me he was excited about new mortgage rates or some other nonsense.

And that's when it became crystal clear that this was somebody masquerading as my relative.  Sure enough, I was -- as I had previously suspected -- already FB friends of this person (the real one).  The scammer had taken my relative's FB profile name and profile picture to masquerade as him, and then started sending invites to all of his FB friends.

Most people (all, I hope) saw right through the scam.  And it's certainly one of the more benign ones to have happen to your profile.  But still, an annoyance.

Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
9/7/2016 | 7:31:03 AM
Re: FB
That's quite a smooth one, though it seems fairly innocuous. If you restrict yourself to people you know well, rather than too large a list of extended 'friends' you're quite likely to pick up on differences in the way they speak and catch on that it's a scam: as you did in your story. 

It's bound to catch some people of course, but that's the benefit of targeted attacks: they are often far more effective. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
9/8/2016 | 4:15:23 PM
Re: FB
I think that if anyone messages you on Facebook for the primary purpose of telling you how excited they are about low mortgage rates and you DON'T find that weird or suspicious or unwelcome (and assuming you're not an utter fool), then either you are super weird, your FB friends are super weird, or both.
nickhayes10
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nickhayes10,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2016 | 5:29:41 PM
Re: FB
Great example, Joe! As my article probably makes it clear, these scams are occurring more and more frequently. As the over population becomes more savvy in identifying scams, cybercriminals continue to adapt and improve the scams to appear more legitimate.
nickhayes10
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nickhayes10,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2016 | 5:48:54 PM
Re: FB
Whoopty, I certainly agree with your advice that people need to scrutinize every friend request and only accept those from people they actual know, but we shouldn't underestimate how tricky this can be for some people.

Recent studies show just how trusting, and therefore, susceptible most people are to such social media scams. In fact, 43% of internet users accept friend requests from others who they don't even know, and more than one-quarter (26%) admit to clicking on friends' links without any level of scrutiny or hesitation at all!

Even veteran security specialists fall victim to social engineering campaigns. The Dark Reading audience is most certainly less likely than the general population to succumb to such attacks, but anyone can make a mistake. And with social media potentially distributing spam to thousands in minutes, it's easy to see why social media has become such an exploitable and cost-effective attack vector.
lorraine89
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lorraine89,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2016 | 8:48:53 AM
Protecting online identity
Nice informative article. Just about time for social media users of all platforms, to secure their online identity. It's time that internet users feel the need to secure their connections by deploying vpn servers. I have myself been the victim of online counterfeiting via phishy email scam, therefore, I use PureVPN now to hide my IP from all sorts of tracking and preventing from those scam emails. 
lorraine89
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lorraine89,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2016 | 9:25:36 AM
Cyber security
Social media sites have become the safe haven for cyber security blows altogether for the fact that users on such sites pay pretty much least attention towards data security measures. Therefore, it is essential to never compromise our online security. I use PureVPN to secure my account from the perils of data theft and to avoid any form of hacking attempt. 
lorraine89
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50%
lorraine89,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2016 | 9:25:58 AM
Identity theft
Social media sites have become the safe haven for cyber security blows altogether for the fact that users on such sites pay pretty much least attention towards data security measures. Therefore, it is essential to never compromise our online security. I use PureVPN to secure my account from the perils of data theft and to avoid any form of hacking attempt. 
lorraine89
50%
50%
lorraine89,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2016 | 9:27:20 AM
Cyber security
Social media sites have become the safe haven for cyber security blows altogether for the fact that users on such sites pay pretty much least attention towards data security measures. Therefore, it is essential to never compromise our online security. I use PureVPN to secure my account from the perils of data theft and to avoid any form of hacking attempt. 
lorraine89
50%
50%
lorraine89,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2016 | 9:27:20 AM
Cyber security
Social media sites have become the safe haven for cyber security blows altogether for the fact that users on such sites pay pretty much least attention towards data security measures. Therefore, it is essential to never compromise our online security. I use PureVPN to secure my account from the perils of data theft and to avoid any form of hacking attempt. 
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
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