Five Social Media Security Issues

Love it or hate it, social media is part of the business world. It's how to connect with customers and business peers, as well as continue to define a brand.

By Sue Poremba | Posted Apr 7, 2010
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Love it or hate it, social media is part of the business world. It's how to connect with customers and business peers, as well as continue to define a brand. In 2010, it's risky not to have a social media presence.

However, social media is risky security-wise, and a story in Inc. shows that the vast majority of small business owners find it the biggest threat to information technology security.  The article stated:

Based on security firm Webroot's survey of 803 IT professionals at small and medium-sized companies, a whopping 80 percent of them think Facebook, RSS feeds, and related Web 2.0-based malware will cause a problem for their companies in 2010. (Worse, 73 percent of respondents think these web-based threats are going to be more difficult to manage than e-mail based threats.)

One of the reasons social media has increasing security issues is the trust factor. The people we are dealing with are our friends, our colleagues, our favorite sports teams, magazines, or food brands.  When we get friend requests or messages, we tend to believe they are safe.

So, what are some of the security threats in social media outlets?

  • Lack of a business policy or lack of enforcement of the policy. As always, the first line of security should ensure that employees have limits on what can be accessed on company networks and that action is taken when the rules are broken.
  • Friending someone you don't know. A few weeks ago, I received a request from a stranger who wrote that, because we had a similar interest, we should be friends. I hit the ignore button, which was a good thing. It was part of a phishing scheme. Others did hit the friend button and have had computer issues as a result. 
  • Not thinking twice about clicking on links. One of the great things about a site like Twitter is the sharing of information you might not see elsewhere. The downside is the tiny URLs that hide the true link to Web sites. If you aren't sure, ask.
  • Letting hijackers into accounts.  Hackers are finding holes in the software and are taking over individual accounts to spread malware from "trusted" sources and scam consumers into sending personal information.
  • Third-party application dangers. Hackers are able to retrieve passwords and other personal information through Facebook games. Fake Facebook  toolbars are taking users to a spoofed site that steals passwords.

This is really the tip of the iceberg. As social media continue to mash into everyday culture, like e-mail, hackers will continue to expolit lapses and holes. In another post, we'll look at what businesses can do to keep consumers safe while keeping their brand from being tarnished if an account is hacked or spoofed.

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