Our obsession with social media is at an all-time high. It is uncommon now to get through the day without checking one form of social media, and this is evident as the average person spends around 2 hours a day on the social platforms.
How we protect ourselves on these sites can't be ignored just because it is seen as a sociable space that eats up our free time through endless scrolling. Where there is personal information online, there are hackers close by looking to make a profit from it.
Individual social media platforms have been easy targets since they first came about in the early 2000s. To set up a profile, we hand over what seems like harmless information like date of birth and email address but with this sudden surge of people uploading their personal details, there was a sudden flood of data that hackers could target.
Once hackers have this information, they can go on to control an individual's account and potentially use it to access bank accounts, set up credit cards, and carry out any other types of fraud wherever a profit is up for grabs.
How You Manage Privacy Settings
The privacy settings on social media platforms allow users to control who sees the information they put out there, and as a result – controls how secure your information is. If you use social media, you should be aware of your level of privacy, and review them regularly as settings change. Although there are lots of social media sites out there, all with slightly different privacy settings, the top three are as follows:
Not only should you consider who can see what you post online (it gives you the option of private, friends, friends of friends, and public), but also what organisations can access when it comes to marketing.
Things like your birthday, hometown, and interests may be accessed by businesses to tailor their advertising to you. Facebook allows its users to decide who gets personal data from you.
Twitter allows users to control who sees their tweets, who can tag them in photos, and what accounts can follow them. Doing this can not only manage current connections, and who sees what, but also deal with future accounts that could pop up. External message requests can also be denied, preventing strangers from contacting you directing, cutting off another way that hackers can get in touch.
Instagram users can tailor their profiles in the information and pictures they share. The photo-focus of Instagram means that privacy settings are much more black and white. Users can either make their profile private or public, determining if people need permission to follow you, a kind of bouncer to your personal photos. The worry is that the obsession with the number of likes you get on a picture can lead people to leave their profiles wide open and exposed for anyone to see.
Social Media Threats
Hackers don't even need to look very far when it comes to gaining information on users through social media. They start by gathering their victims' personal information from what's available on the sites. Many identity thieves can get into their victim's email by following the "forgot password," option and then trying to recover the password via email. Once they are into your email account, they have opened a whole new wealth of valuable data.
Hacking across social media has become so common that it has acquired its own name – social engineering. Rather than requiring a high level of technical skill, it is more often about using the information available on a personal profile to win the trust of a complete stranger through psychological games in order to exploit them for personal gain.
Social media allows people to connect easily, a factor that can allow strangers to get close to you. An example of this technique came in July 2017 when a fake account circulated in spreading harmful software to employees through their social media accounts. A so-called London-based photographer named Mia Ash started gaining connections with corporate employees. "Mia" has accounts across several popular platforms, allowing her audience to grow rapidly. From this new wealth of people, she set off a virus disguised as a harmless application. If the unsuspecting employee clicked on the application, harmful files were released and the attacker gained full access to the victim's system.
The case of Mia Ash demonstrates the increasing creativity of hackers. Social media environments cause people to let their guards down, and as a result, the cybercriminals close in.