Dangers of Social Media
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Dangers of Social Media

Q: Steve – Recently, my Facebook account was hacked and “I” sent out an inappropriate blast to all of my friends, customers, etc. It ended up that I had to delete my account and send out an email explaining what happened to a lot of people. Very embarrassing. Please warn your readers about online fraud. It can happen to you.


A: You are preaching to the choir, brother.

Not only did something similar happened to a close friend of mine recently (unbeknownst to him, his Twitter account sent out Viagra tweets to all of his followers), but lately I have been doing some work with Symantec, one of the leaders in computer protection (online and otherwise) and I have learned a lot about burgeoning social media dangers.

The fact is, if you are not careful, if you don’t take some simple but necessary precautions, your Facebook account can get hacked, your Twitter account can get usurped, even your bank account can be robbed.

Yes, you heard me right.

Unprotected social media use can not only damage your brand, it can rob you blind. According to the FBI, in 2008 and 2009, bad guys transferred more than $100 million out of small business bank accounts by getting online bank login information using, among other things, social media.

According to Kevin Haley, the director of security response for Symantec, simply by clicking on a bad link, one corrupted by the crooks, your social media account can be instantly hacked.

Just like that.

For example, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez’s account was hacked and fraudulently had him discussing drug use. The Barack Obama for President Twitter account was also hacked, telling people they could “possibly win $500 in free gas” by taking an online survey (with link.)

Here’s how these schemes work: Say that someone you know or trust instructs you to follow a link. So you unknowingly click over to the corrupted site, which looks every bit as normal as a real site, and maybe you click an infected link, or maybe it’s a faux-Facebook page and you are asked to login. Whatever the case, once you do, malware is then installed onto your computer without you ever knowing it. That malware might be, for example:

  • Key logging software that records you keystrokes, and that in turn allows the criminals to login to your social media accounts -- or even your bank.
  • Software that sends out fake social media messages as if it were you

According to Haney, the danger with social media is that we tend to trust the information we receive from people on such platforms since we know them. Given that, the bad messages can come from either someone you know who unknowingly gets corrupted and sends you the bad link (“watch this cool video!”) or from the bad guys themselves who send messages to you in an attempt to fake you out (“Someone from the class of 1998 is looking for you, click here to see who asked about you.”)

Whatever the case, once you click the bad link, according to Haney, “Bam, you’re owned!”

So what do you do and how can you protect yourself? The first thing is to get the right software. You want an integrated suite that will block intruders and viruses, detect and prevent the installation of other sorts of malware, and protect your privacy. For instance, my pals at Symantec have an excellent solution, Symantec Protection Suite, Small Business Edition. But whatever you get, make sure it can protect you from all of the various bugs that are out there.

Additionally, it is important to institute policies and educate employees about the dangers of using file sharing programs and free programs and updates downloaded from the Internet.

Also, if you don’t already, monitor your social media output. Infected accounts can send out ongoing malicious messages without you ever knowing if you are not watching.

Finally, change your passwords often.

© 2010 Steven D. Strauss, www.MrAllBiz.com