Social Media and Cyber Security

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Why Social Media is the Best Argument for Cyber Protection

By Dale Dresch, IT Audit Manager, Maloney + Novotny

Social media and cyber security

Social media and online connectivity are a big part of most people’s everyday routines these days, so it’s not surprising to learn that many of the sites, posts and links offered through these channels are, unfortunately nefarious.

Just think of the infamous Instagram Ray-Ban hack you may have come across in recent months. It often looked like a promotional photo post on your feed, except that it came from an account or person you follow, but who was uncharacteristically advertising discounted Ray-Ban sunglasses. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before followers recognized the highly suspect post for what it was.

It’s just one example of the questionable social tactics now used for any number of reasons: Like compromising systems, stealing personal information, influencing public opinion, or spreading malware designed to do these same things.

As National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2019 continues this October, we have additional tips on how to protect your online interactions, as urged by the theme of this year’s Cybersecurity event: “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect It.” (To review our other advice on this topic, check out our earlier October 2019 blogs here and here.

Start with Awareness. Protecting your online activity and connectivity comes down to two major ideas: First, being aware of the newest tactics hackers are using to compromise your cybersecurity. And second, implementing physical and system protections to reduce the chances these hacks could inflict any damage on your online interactions.

A few of the newest hacks center around social media use. These days you’ll run across what’s known as social media bots, programs or accounts created for both benign and nefarious purposes. Hackers and organizations use them to post and repost content, sometimes automatically, often simulating human activities, for their own gain or notoriety. While not all bots have malicious aims, many of them do. They can be programmed to post certain kinds of content, to mine personal data, or steal identification credentials. And their objectives may range from simply trying to sell goods and services, to raising engagement for community issues, to spreading propaganda that can sway public opinion. For example, political groups and even foreign governments might use bots to repost content to raise support for certain hashtag or trending topics, aiming to target specific audiences or to incite divisiveness on social issues.

Basic Safeguards. Once you’re aware of these socially spread activities, the next logical step is putting protections in place to guard your activities and keep you from being tricked.

Begin by keeping operating systems updated and enabling the automatic update feature on laptops and phones. These updates will help your system automatically detect and stop newer attack mechanisms and make it harder for hackers to gain access.

You also want to make use of security software and firewalls. Security software can provide multiple layers of defense, helping to protect your system from viruses, phishing attacks, and malware downloads. A related protective measure is choosing a home routing device that includes or supports basic firewall features. Make sure your wireless network or wireless access point (WAP) is protected with a WPA2 security connection, i.e. Wi-Fi Protected Access 2.

And, when you’re on the road accessing public hotspots with personal or work devices, consider subscribing to a trusted VPN service, or virtual private network. This routing and encryption service work like a business VPN but uses a paid connection to a third-party to encrypt and route your connection to the online destinations and networks you visit. Since the data is encrypted and the connection routed, anyone trying to intercept the data on a public hotspot won’t be able to read it.  Enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who can access your account is you.  This should be a must on every online account that will support it, your bank, email, social media, etc.  MFA is probably the single best step you can take to protect yourself online.  You can use this link to look for services that you currently use and determine if they support MFA.

These are just a few of the protections that will upgrade your cybersecurity, and you can find many more through trusted resources like the National Security Agency and the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies.

Although the end of October also brings the end of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, that doesn’t mean your cybersecurity measures should take a break. And we’re here to continue the charge. If you have a specific cybersecurity question to discuss, don’t hesitate to contact Maloney + Novotny IT Audit Manager Dale Dresch at (216) 344-5296 or ddresch@maloneynovotny.com, or use our online contact form to get in touch with us.

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