The ugly side of social media: malware & social media hacking

Social media hacking

Here at PIF we’re firm believers in the power of social media to connect with stakeholders. As such, we have variously encouraged our Process Industry partners to get on board and launch themselves into the social media ether.

Link: Getting started with Social Media - A Guide for the Process Industry 

Some of you may have concerns about the safety of social media. With the advent of sophisticated malware and account hacking that’s not entirely unwarranted. But with a few simple steps you can take control, ensuring that you’re still engaging with your audiences, just without any potential security headaches to worry about.

What are the malware and hacking pitfalls of social media?

How many of us have had a seemingly innocuous direct message on Twitter, for example, that seemed…well wrong; a misspelling, strange tone of voice. You’ve guessed it. That account’s been hacked. And it could happen to anyone. Assuming that we’re using duplicate, weak passwords and our anti-virus software is woefully out-dated.

Twitter hacked

Threats from malware, specifically targeting social media, rose significantly this year according to McAfee. "Cyber criminals have come to appreciate that sensitive personal and organisational information are the currency of their ‘hacker economy,'" says Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs.

Malware, is basically short for malicious software. This software is used to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain access to private computer systems. It can appear in the form of code, scripts, active content, and other software.

Earlier in December, it was reported that hackers had stolen usernames and passwords for nearly two million social media accounts, including Facebook (318,000 accounts), Google (70,000 Gmail, Google+ and Youtube accounts) and Twitter (22,000 accounts).

Facebook hacking

According to cybersecurity firm Trustwave, the virus was capturing log-in credentials for key websites and sending those usernames and passwords to a server in the Netherlands controlled by the hackers.

What to do if your social media account is hacked?

Don’t panic! It is possible to wrestle back control of your social media account.

Try following these handy pointers to get back on course:

  • Change your password immediately and ensure that it’s unique to just that account. Plus change your email address’ password to ensure that access can’t be obtained through the reset password form of the social media account.
  • Visit the applications page of the social network and remove any apps you don’t recognize.
  • Run a virus scan on your computer to make sure you aren't infected with a virus.
  • Let your followers know that your account was compromised and that it wasn't you sending unsolicited messages.

Remember to always use unique passwords for each account and never share passwords across networks. Most social networks also now support two-factor authentication, requiring both your password and a number generated by a device (such as your phone). It might take a few seconds longer but it’s far more secure. Finally, make sure that you’re anti-virus software (like Norton or McAfee) is bang up to date. It won’t do you any harm to run some anti-virus checks every once in a while, especially if you've downloaded software online.

Much of social media practice – be it content, or security measures – is rooted firmly in common sense. Take practical measures and crucially don’t be put off. Tread carefully and you should navigate the buoyant social media world with ease and peace of mind.

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