Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

9/6/2016
10:00 AM
Nick Hayes
Nick Hayes
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

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.

Related Content:

 

 

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
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 4 / 4
Whoopty
100%
0%
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
100%
0%
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.

<<   <   Page 4 / 4
US Turning Up the Heat on North Korea's Cyber Threat Operations
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  9/16/2019
MITRE Releases 2019 List of Top 25 Software Weaknesses
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  9/17/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "He's too shy to invite me out face to face!"
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-16680
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-21
An issue was discovered in GNOME file-roller before 3.29.91. It allows a single ./../ path traversal via a filename contained in a TAR archive, possibly overwriting a file during extraction.
CVE-2019-16681
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-21
The Traveloka application 3.14.0 for Android exports com.traveloka.android.activity.common.WebViewActivity, leading to file disclosure and XSS.
CVE-2019-16677
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-21
An issue was discovered in idreamsoft iCMS V7.0. admincp.php?app=members&amp;do=del allows CSRF.
CVE-2019-16678
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-21
admin/urlrule/add.html in YzmCMS 5.3 allows CSRF with a resultant denial of service by adding a superseding route.
CVE-2019-16679
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-21
Gila CMS before 1.11.1 allows admin/fm/?f=../ directory traversal, leading to Local File Inclusion.