How to Protect Yourself from Social Media Phishing

How to Protect Yourself from Social Media Phishing

Social media has drastically evolved and transformed how businesses and customers interact with one another. Social media platforms have become must-have marketing channels for businesses to promote their products and services, and by extension, they have become integral in helping end users consume and discover information and make key decisions.

The past few years have also seen an acceleration in game-changing artificial intelligence (AI) tools and technology, allowing social media marketers and advertisers to discover innovative ways to automate their campaigns. With the help of AI and automation tools like Somiibo, social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and others can give businesses the chance to stand out from the increasingly competitive and crowded marketplace and pique the interests of their target audience.

Despite the benefits and possibilities of automating social media marketing activities, new avenues for malicious actors and cybercriminals have been opened. Phishing scams in particular - widely believed to be the most common type of cybercrime - have begun to run rampant through social media channels and automation is believed to be partially exacerbating this issue.

What has also become overly apparent in recent months is the rise in AI chatbot-related scams and risks, which, if they are augmenting social media activity, can also raise alarm bells for businesses, particularly if they handle sensitive data and operate in highly regulated industries.

However, all is not lost; with careful supervision and oversight, businesses can safeguard their assets, data and infrastructure from social media phishing attacks. As companies expand their social media presence and deploy new tools to help them scale their marketing campaigns, defending against ‌phishing attacks that slip through the proverbial cracks is easier with vigilance and preparation.

What is Social Media Phishing?

Phishing is a widely used type of social engineering cyber attack, with reportedly 3.4 billion fraudulent emails or messages sent every day. While phishing is mostly associated with email, social media phishing has grown rapidly according to recent statistics, and now accounts for roughly 36% of all data breaches. Social media phishing attacks enable opportunistic criminals to disguise themselves as seemingly innocent friends or followers, deceiving their victims into divulging sensitive information that they can use against them.

The more open and trusting nature of social media platforms means that malicious attackers can quickly take advantage of users, particularly given that they are often less suspicious about social media links than those in email or text messages.

Common Social Media Phishing Tactics

Criminals can use social media to execute phishing attacks in a variety of ways, from impersonating real brands to sending repeated streams of messages to followers prompting them to click malicious links. Social media activity that’s been partially or entirely automated must be monitored as some tools may fail to filter spam or dangerous content.

While some phishing attacks may be easy to spot and avoid, others are less obvious. To protect your business, it’s important to understand some common techniques that criminals may use in their exploits:

  • Malicious links in comments: Trending news stories or viral posts will generate increased visibility. These present opportunities for malicious actors to add comments containing links which could direct unsuspecting users to phishing websites or for their computers to download malware.

  • Impersonated customer support accounts: With consumers interacting with brands directly through their social media channels for support or advice, this can sometimes influence the creation of fake accounts impersonating brands. This increases the chances of customers failing to separate real from fake.

  • Nonexistent brand promotions: Sometimes offers or discounts seem too good to be true, but that’s often because they are. Users often don’t verify the legitimacy of the offer or brand when seeing a huge cash saving, fail to realise that this is usually an attempt to extract user data and personal information, and learn that no such discount exists.

The consequences of falling victim to a social media phishing scam range drastically. Failing to be vigilant can result in handing business account access to fraudsters, or see valuable funds wasted on products that don’t exist. Business devices and assets can get infected by malware or ransomware, thus locking users out of systems and files until a ransom is paid.

Highly regulated businesses (such as healthcare, finance, education, or those that handle large sums of data or funds), are obligated to disclose cyber attack details and, if particularly severe, this can affect customer trust and lead to long-term reputational damage.

Protecting Your Business from Social Media Phishing

Implementing robust security practices is crucial for safely leveraging social media and avoiding falling victim to a phishing scam.

The first step is to educate your team about the possible attack methods that exist on social media. Train them on how to spot phishing attempts and the risks of clicking unverified links or downloading suspicious attachments. If necessary, limit third-party plugins or sharing permissions based on the principle of least privilege, allocating admin access to those who strictly require it. Regularly vet and review integrated apps and management tools to ensure they are valid and secure, with security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations patched promptly.

At a minimum, use strong, unique passwords for all social media logins, backing them all up with multi-factor authentication (MFA). Take this a step further by implementing enterprise-grade web filtering solutions and internet security software that can block known phishing sites and scan files or links before data is exposed. Most importantly, however, when automating parts of your social media marketing strategy, ensure that there are clear processes for human review and supervision. Don’t entrust all aspects of your campaigns to algorithms, instead, oversee them regularly to catch and contain possible weak spots and compromised content. Revoke access, reset and update passwords, remove malicious links, and define clear reporting procedures to fortify your accounts.

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