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10 Social Media Data Hacks, Schemes and Scams Threatening Your Corporate Brand

August 6, 2019
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August 6, 2019

Social media is a valuable channel that provides businesses with an outlet to spread awareness about their brand and communicate with their consumers all over the globe. However, with this benefit comes numerous  privacy and security trade-offs that both individuals and companies alike should be aware of.

If your company remains active on social media, then it’s essential that you become educated on the various types of data hacks, schemes and scams out there. These threats have the potential to compromise your business and leave a disastrous impact on your corporate brand. Stay knowledgeable, stay proactive and check out this post to learn more.

A fake "facebook" webpage example; this webpage would be used to scam users into entering their account information to be used maliciously

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1. Phishing

Phishing is extremely common on social media. In fact, according to BetaNews, phishing increased  74.7% on Facebook and Instagram alone in the first quarter of 2019. This form of attack is often hard to see coming. This is because the perpetrator disguises themselves as a trustworthy entity in an attempt to fraudulently obtain personal information.

Phishing can be disguised in the form of social media clickbait posts (i.e. Breaking News: Justin Bieber Dead!), advertisements or even messages from the social media platform itself. The perpetrator makes a clone of a legitimate website, uploads their phishing kit to it and then proceeds to send it out to thousands of individuals in the hopes that just a few may fall victim to their crime.

In order to prevent this from happening, avoid clicking on any links that you are unfamiliar with. Also, be sure that the security packages you invest in include antiphishing defenses. Unfortunately, many free versions do not.

2. Account Cloning

The New York Times recently reported that there are millions of fake accounts littered all over social media. We’re not just talking catfishing schemes here, people. These also come in the form of brand imposters who leverage corporate accounts to facilitate illegal activities such as phishing scams and counterfeiting. The bad news is that unfortunately, many social media platforms simply aren’t equipped enough to handle the inundation of these scams. As a result, they have spread all over various platforms like wildfire.

Account cloning is a bit more savvy of an attack because it requires the attacker to do a bit of research on the target. In some instances, the perpetrator clones the social media account of a high profile executive and then proceed to send friend requests to all of their acquaintances in order to legitimize it.

The hacker then proceeds to implement a phishing attack by forwarding messages to their employees requesting them to click on a link or view an article. Once the link is clicked, individuals risk their private and personal information, as well as the security of their devices.

profile hijacking social media

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3. Profile Hijacking

Profile hijacking happens when an attacker takes over a social media account and then uses it for their own dubious purposes.

Many times, if this happens to your own account, a friend will notify you of a questionable message received from your account. As a result, you’re able to effectively take back control through the various measures provided to you by the social media website (i.e. password change).

However, what if you’re a brand who isn’t very active on social media? Or perhaps you create a social media page and then let your strategy fall to the wayside due to the fact that you become inundated with other priorities. If this is the case, take the time to delete the profile or page you’ve created until you’re truly ready to begin implementing your strategy. These dormant accounts provide hackers with a rich opportunity to take advantage of both your brand and your customers.

In one instance, a firm by the name of Insinia Security temporarily hijacked several high-profile Twitter accounts as a PR stunt to expose platform vulnerabilities. The firm accomplished this by taking advantage of the feature which enables posting by mobile devices, specifically cell phones.

This goes to show how even personal information such as your phone number can be used in order to compromise your accounts. If you currently have your phone number linked to any of your social media platforms or included on them, then your best bet is to remove it in order to safeguard yourself against an attack as such.

4. Third-Party App Hacks

How many third-party apps have you granted access to your personal information? Do you know them by name? Can you count them on your hand? Chances are, if you’re like most people – you’ve completely lost track.

Third-party apps are tricky even when they’re legitimate due to the fact you must provide access to sensitive information in order to use them. These permissions ultimately end up leaving you in a rather vulnerable state. Perhaps you've done your due diligence when it comes to securing your social media. But the question remains, are you aware of the security measures that your third-party apps use? How trustworthy is the app in question and is it worth the risk?

In one particular scenario, hackers were able to gain access to the Twitter accounts of both Amnesty International and Forbes due to a technical flaw in a Twitter Counter app. The app was originally created to provide platform analysis, but needless to say, there were flaws which created a vulnerability to an attack. As a result, it’s essential to take precautions when it comes to using third-party apps. Review the terms of use, the permissions you're granting and do some research to ensure they’re legitimate.

Image result for verified badge scam

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5. Verified Badge Scams

Instagram’s verified badge program was created as a security feature so that companies and individuals can effectively showcase the legitimacy of their profiles to their followers.However, the demand for this feature has prompted the rise in various scams created in order to take advantage of individuals seeking such certification.

The hackers send out messages to individuals posing as “Instagram’s Verify Team” and then proceed to ask the user for personal information such (i.e. logins, passwords, email addresses and dates of birth) in order to move forward with the verification process.

In many instances, once the account has been compromised it is then held for ransom by the attacker for bitcoins. Never provide your personal information before verifying that the request is legitimate. This can also be avoided by implementing dual factor authentication on all of your social media accounts.

6. Account Canceled Scams

This scam has been particularly prolific in making its rounds through social media. In this scenario, the hacker poses as an authority platform and then forwards you an email saying that your account has been cancelled or risks cancellation.

The hacker then persuades the individual to input their personal information in order to get their account back up and running. Needless to say, doing so only serves to provide them access to whatever information you’ve provided, or gives them the ability to download malware to your device.

If you receive an email as such, take measures to ensure that it is truly from the legitimate source. Many times, improper grammar and fraudulent email addresses can clue an individual into the fact that the message is a scam. Beware of any messages that incite immediate action and don’t trust any information that isn’t coming directly from the platform’s website.

Image result for snapchat chain message scam

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7.  Fraudulent Chain Messages

By now practically all of us have received chain mail messages in some form on one platform or another. Many times, these can be harmless little messages forwarded by friends or colleagues – but this is not always the case.

In one instance, Snapchat ran into some problems when they found hackers were posing as their official Team Snapchat account. A chain message was being spread alerting users that their Memories would be deleted if they didn't take immediate action. The only option to prevent this was to forward the message and share it with others.

Another scam threatened users that any inappropriate photos which were sent over the app would be uploaded and shared if they did not comply with the requests. Needless to say, the fact that people were being essentially blackmailed into taking an action should be sufficient enough to provide insight into the fact that the chain was a hoax.

However, that doesn’t mean that it was a victimless crime. Snapchat did their best to notify users once they found out, but who knows how much damage was done by this time.

8. The "See Who Viewed Your Profile" Scam

This is another extremely popular scam spreading throughout social media that can impact both individuals and brands alike. In this particular scenario, the hackers request users to click on a link to fill out a survey or install an extension so that they can access insights on who has been viewing their profile.

The truth of the matter is that there is currently no feature offered by Facebook which allows you to track specific individuals who have visited or viewed your profile. This knowledge alone is sufficient enough to safeguard you against such a threat. When in doubt, never enter personal information, especially if you’re unable to verify that the source is legitimate.

Image result for check short url

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9. URL Shortening Schemes

URL shorteners such as Bit.ly are extremely popular for individuals and brands looking to share information on social media. These platforms provide a service which shortens URLs to make them more attractive and convenient for posting. This is especially the case for platforms such as Twitter, where there is a small character limit allotted to posts.

However, the issue with this lies in the inability to see the source. When the original URL is converted to a shorter one, it’s virtually impossible to identify whether or not the link is legitimate. As a result, individuals and brands should always remain wary of shortened URL links.

Fortunately, there are several resources which can be used in order to verify the legitimacy of shortened URLs. For instance, CheckShortURL works in the opposite manner that many of these URL shortening services do.

The platform allows you to input a shortened URL, which it then expands so that you are able to retrieve the original URL information from the shortened link that was provided. It also notifies you if the link is located on search engines as well as if it is safe to click. When in doubt, use a service as such to avoid the risk of having your personal data compromised.

10. Information Prompting Schemes

Social media quizzes have exploded in popularity recently. However, these seemingly harmless games have opened up a world of opportunity to cybercriminals. This is because many quizzes and viral posts prompt users to divulge private information which can then be leveraged to steal their identity or compromise their accounts.

Many times, cybercriminals embed links into a quiz that enables them to steal your personal information. Other times, they use these quizzes as a way to slowly build a profile on you by combining information you've publicly provided from various sources. This information then can be put up for sale, used to hack into your personal account or even to potentially open up lines of credit in your name.

One Facebook quiz post in particular was asking users personal questions such as their first-grade teacher’s name, the name of their childhood best friend and the place they were born.  Many users were unaware that answers to these questions include the exact same information that can be used to answer security questions on their accounts.

Believe it or not, the post in question had over 200,000 shares.

Keep in mind that every piece of information you share on social media, whether seemingly insignificant or not, can be leveraged in one way or another by cybercriminals. Small amounts of information are often used to build profiles of users which can then be used to hack your accounts and compromise your personal information or identity.

Conclusion

Data hacking has been catapulted into the spotlight in recent years due to the fact that numerous high-profile organizations have fallen victim to such processes. If you’re a company that stays active on social media, then it is crucial that you remain well-educated on the various types of threats out there that can negatively impact your company and its reputation. Stay safe, stay alert and take precautionary measures to ensure that you don’t fall victim to any of these ten data hacks, schemes and scams listed.

Have you ever fallen victim to a data hack? What was the outcome? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear your story.

VisioneerIT Digital Solutions

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