Chances are, you are one of the 3 billion people worldwide who use social media. And, as such, you are a target for hackers.
To a hacker, social media is the gift that keeps on giving. In fact, hackers love social media, to the point where more than half a million Facebook accounts are hacked every day, and even more are targeted for future cybercrime. Research indicates that 1 in 10 people have been a victim of hacking or another cybercrime via social media, meaning everything from getting a virus to being the target of a spear-phishing attack.
So, what is it about social media that is so appealing to hackers? The simple fact is that it makes their job infinitely easier.
How Social Media Benefits Hackers
Social media, whether you’re talking about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn or any other social site, is a veritable gold mine for a hacker. Consider the following:
People share everything. Think about your social media accounts and how much information you share. Virtually anyone with a computer can find out anything about you, from where you live and work to your preferences for food and reading material. The very nature of social media is about sharing, so you think nothing of tagging your location or posting about what you’re up to, but hackers eagerly await that information, so they can use it to target their future attacks. And unlike email, where hackers have to break into your account to gather personal information about you, with unsecured social media accounts, you’re just posting it all for the world to see.
Social media creates more trust. Many people believe that when they are on social media, they are among friends, so, therefore, they can trust people. After all, Uncle Frank would never deliberately share malware with all of his poker buddies. However, it’s that very trust that makes it easy for hackers to operate. All they need is a few individuals to share their link, which might seem as innocuous as a video of a cute kitten, and it doesn’t take long before the malware spreads far and wide.
People are eager to click. Research indicates that the more active that someone is on social media, the more likely they are to click on links in social sites, even those that clearly collect a lot of personal information or are blatant spam. And the more people see others clicking on links, the more they are likely to do it themselves. When you click on a quiz to determine what kind of cheese you are, or where you should live based on your Facebook statuses, you’re giving those websites access to all your personal information. However, there is the “everyone else is doing it” phenomena on social media, so people do it willingly.
It’s easy to be fake. We hear the term “fake news” a lot these days, but the fact is, not everything online is real. Hackers have learned to exploit the ability to be whatever they want to be on social media, even going so far as to impersonate individuals and brands to gather information.
The fact that hackers are exploiting the very aspects of social media that draw users to it in the first place makes it more imperative than ever to protect yourself. This begins with installing the best internet security possible, to block malware, viruses and phishing attacks before they strike.
However, you also need to be vigilant and cautious about what you share online and with whom. Every social media site has security and privacy features designed to keep your information secure and allow you to control who has access to your profiles. Use these features; on Facebook, for example, set your profile so it is only viewable to friends and that your posts, friend list, and personal information are all private. Be selective in what you share online, and avoid sharing information that could be used for phishing.
It’s also important to become aware of the various methods that hackers use and be selective about the links you click and share. For example, one recent scam used Facebook messenger to trick people into sharing a message with an infected link. If you receive a suspicious message, delete it and contact the alleged sender to let them know that they have been hacked. And no matter how tempting it may be, avoid clicking on links designed to collect your data.
Social media can be a useful and safe part of your life, but you need to be smart. Don’t give the hackers what they want, and you won’t lose time and money to them.