How Social Media Impacts Business Cybersecurity
Social media has become an essential marketing tool for modern companies. Online platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter allow businesses to easily expand their reach, communicate with their ideal audience and build trust by posting organic content. Unfortunately, using social media also increases cybersecurity risks.
Criminals are skilled at mining social media for data, manipulating employees and using public information to break into company accounts. Without proper protections in place, it can be a significant security risk for your business.
How Criminals Use Social Media
Because you and your employees aren’t thinking like criminals, giving away too much information online is easy. Once posted, that data is on a public platform and can easily be accessed by people looking for a way to exploit you. Here are five cybersecurity risks that social media can bring to your business.
1. Mine for Data
Social media is built for sharing information. You may have trained your employees to be careful about what they post online. However, criminals collect data from multiple platforms and can often put together a working picture of employees’ families, interests and personalities. Sometimes, they can even guess sensitive passwords from online information.
Private accounts don’t always protect you — these can be easily hacked if you use a weak password or post personal information somewhere else online. Unfortunately, the lure of wanting to be known makes it easy to overshare online. Criminals can take advantage of this natural tendency to break into personal accounts and compromise businesses.
2. Use Social Engineering
The weakest link in a cybersecurity system is always the people. Criminals use social engineering to exploit human psychology and get the necessary information. For example, employees are most vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks when they’re tired or stressed. A criminal could call your company and gain access to personal information by pressuring employees in just the right way.
If a criminal can convince a worker to click a compromised link through email, they can gain access to your computer and any sensitive information it contains. Some hackers impersonate employees or their spouses to find private company information. Social media can provide the basic information needed to stage a successful social engineering attack.
3. Plan Phishing Attacks
Criminals can also use online data to make dangerous situations seem perfectly normal. For example, most employees know not to click links from unknown email addresses. These links might contain malware that shuts down their computer or gives hackers access to their personal information.
However, what if an online link seems perfectly safe? Cyberattacks can come through a perfectly innocuous email designed to impersonate someone you already have a relationship with. This may have been the strategy behind the 2013 Target credit card hack. While some phishing attacks are obvious, others are much more sophisticated.
4. Compromise Privacy
Typically, cyberattacks are engineered with one of two goals. The criminals behind an attack either want to exploit your business or your customers. Social media can give them the information they need to break into company records and achieve these goals. It may take months to realize you’ve been compromised if they’re after customer information.
This happened to the Pentagon in 2018. The hackers who broke in accessed the personal records of around 30,000 Defense Department employees. Unfortunately, this serious security breach wasn’t discovered for several months — long enough that it had the potential for serious harm. Social media can make it easier for criminals to break into your company and access private customer records.
5. Damage Reputation
Your customers are counting on you to protect their personal information, and a security breach could permanently damage your company’s reputation. You could face legal action if you aren’t able to protect client data. This could be devastating financially and severely impair your business’s future.
Criminals might use a cyberattack to access enough information to impersonate you. They could make purchases in your name, lock you out of accounts and gain sensitive information about partners by pretending to be you. Without protection, a cybersecurity attack could devastate your reputation in the business world.
Using Social Media Securely
Thankfully, you can take measures to reduce cybersecurity risk and protect your business from criminals. Here are three steps to ensure social media doesn’t pose a dangerous threat to your company. These steps aren’t one and done — it’s important to stay informed about new scams so you’re always prepared.
1. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication makes sensitive information more difficult to access. Instead of allowing you to sign in to accounts with one piece of information, it requires you to have two separate proofs of your identity. For example, you may need an account password and then enter a PIN that’s sent to your iPhone.
Although two-factor authentication can be a bit frustrating for employees, it protects their personal information as well as the business they work for. Criminals would need to be incredibly coordinated and put in a lot of extra work to successfully break through. Improving the security of employee passwords can significantly reduce your risk of a security attack.
2. Train Your Employees
You should also consider training your employees to identify and resist criminal activity. Workers are trained to be helpful, but this can backfire when interacting with criminals. Regardless of who they think has called them, they should never share sensitive company information over the phone. They shouldn’t email or screenshot it either.
Let your employees know they are part of your security team. What they post on social media can harm them and your company, so they must think twice before posting and use strong passwords for all their accounts. Teach them about common phishing strategies and other forms of manipulation. A healthy level of suspicion can protect them and your company from criminals.
3. Hire a Hacker
Hire a hacker to test your business for weaknesses if you’re seriously concerned about cybersecurity risks. Look for someone with credentials, an ethical reputation and plenty of recommendations. A hacker can scope out social media accounts, probe employees and look for loopholes in your security system.
This approach helps you observe your business from the point of view of a criminal. You can use weaknesses this hacker finds to enhance employee training and heighten security protocols. Hiring a hacker now may be the best way to protect you from a cybersecurity attack in the future.
Reduce Your Cybersecurity Risk
Social media is important for running a modern business. Unfortunately, criminals also use it to stage cybersecurity attacks. Through a combination of data mining and manipulation, they can access sensitive information and use it to exploit customer and company resources. Follow these steps to reduce risks and protect your operations.
Zac Amos writes about AI, cybersecurity and other trending technology topics, and he works as the Features Editor at ReHack.