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Even today, social media platforms are continuing to grow. In fact, it’s projected that by the end of this year (2019) across all platforms there will be 2.77 billion users thanks in large part to social platforms making it easy to connect with the people around you while also being beneficial for businesses too. This overlap has blurred the divide between people’s professional and personal lives. Now companies must take steps to monitor their employees’ online behavior to make sure that it’s “appropriate.” Of course, these businesses must also watch for security and privacy risks too.

Social media’s evolution and security

Trend Micro says by looking at how social media has changed over the years we are able to map out what security measures we must update. With this in mind, here are a few of the many changes social media has undergone over the years that have made it easier and more engaging but also heightened security risks:

  • There’s more content being shared on social media than in the past – including pictures, live feeds, and writing. This wealth of information makes it easier to share with others. However, it’s difficult to censor all this information to make sure that critical information isn’t released incorrectly.
  • More people are using their mobile devices to be active on social media. In fact, this now accounts for about 70% of the time people spend on social media today. While smartphones make it possible to stay connected to social media at any time and from any place, they also expose more personal information (e.g. location, schedules, other activities you’re doing on your smartphone).
  • With so much information being shared online, especially via social media, more people are becoming more conscious of their privacy. This is further heightened by stricter data regulations (e.g. GDPR). Social media has changed their privacy policies, so users now have more options.

Cybersecurity threats from social media

While users are generally trusting of social media, there are still some security threats they must watch for, including:

  • Most social media security overlooks the human factor even though it’s business’ largest cybersecurity risk. While social media is difficult to control due to how personal it is, businesses must be careful because it’s easy for people (even trusted employees) to accidentally share the wrong thing. This has great implications for your business. For instance, it could result in a major data breach. Cybercriminals have also used personal information from social media accounts to impersonate employees and gain access to restricted areas of your network.
  • The spread of fake news doesn’t only affect people, it also affects businesses. When the wrong information is shared it can skew people’s views and opinions. Since social media is so fluid, fake news can also spread faster than real news. Cybercriminals can also use fake accounts to discredit people or spread malicious files and links.
  • Phishing doesn’t only occur via email anymore. It also occurs via social media now. Cyber criminals realize many people are more likely to let their guard down with social media instead of email.
  • Malware is now being distributed via social media. While you may think that these links, posts, and messages are from a trusted friend or someone you respect, it’s easy for cybercriminals to impersonate these people, get you to go to a malicious website, then push malware on you. This can also be done without you ever leaving the social media website thanks to the various messaging apps that are now in use.
  • Spammers also like social media because it isn’t as secure as today’s email platforms. It’s easy for them to create fake accounts and start spam campaigns. They can also hack into your social media account, hijack it, and spread their message that way.
  • Malware isn’t the only thing you must worry about, according to Business 2 Community ransomware and virus attacks are also rampant on social media sites today. This can block your access to your computer until you pay money to restore your privileges. You must also be concerned about cybercriminals getting your personal details from social media accounts then using it in fake emails asking people to download ransomware. Unfortunately, your unsuspecting customers will then associate your business’ name with the ransomware attack, causing even bigger issues for you.
  • If you’re like most businesses, you have apps connected to your social media accounts (e.g. your listening system, publishing system, analytics system). When you don’t understand the security practices that are associated with your apps the apps can be used as an in-road to access your private information. This is why you must create a policy that says employees can’t connect apps to social media unless they’re pre-approved by you.

Making social media more secure

It’s important to take a connected, collaborative approach to security here. Some things you can do to secure your business’ presence on social media include:

  • Make sure you know how your business is using social media, what platforms you’re benefitting from the most, and where you need more security. This doesn’t only protect your business. It also protects your visitors.
  • Train all your employees on social media “best practices” and cybersecurity techniques. While you’re training them, make sure you explain why you’re doing so – that each employee is important to your business’ overall security. Although you may still get attacked, you’re less likely to have a security breach caused by one of your own employees.
  • Teach your employees the importance of using good password hygiene and two-factor authentication. These are two simple things you can do to add an additional layer of security to your social media presence so unauthorized parties don’t access it.
  • Always use strong security solutions like open source antivirus software to protect your business’ accounts and network from being attacked by things like malicious URLs, malware, phishing campaigns, and other threats.
  • Expand your security’s defenses beyond your own borders by encouraging your customers and business partners to be more proactive in their social media security strategies.

Social media has both its good side and its bad side. By making a commitment to security you’ll mitigate some of its threats while still benefiting from its use.

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