Remember what your mother used to tell you about not speaking to strangers? Well in this technology-enhanced aged this sentiment also applies to your social media accounts.
Social media networks might just be an online forum to keep in touch with your friends and family but to enterprising cyber criminals they are a potentially huge opportunity. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have boomed over the past couple of years, boasting millions of users all of whom are constantly updating their personal information, which is highly valuable for today's cyber criminal. The more information hackers are able to get a hold of, the easier it will be to develop an attack and the greater the return will be.
With more than 61% of UK adults actively accessing their social media accounts, it comes as no surprise that hackers are increasingly adapting their attacks towards these sites. The recent LinkedIn security breach that released more than six million passwords into the wild is proof that hackers are stepping up their game and constantly on the lookout for new unguarded vulnerabilities - highlighting the need for more vigilance and caution when interacting online.
The mechanics of a social media related attack are simple: cyber criminals hone in on their targets and gather as much information as they can by befriending them, subsequently enabling access to their profile. Once the initial contact is made, hackers will launch their attack in the form of a malware laced attachment or link that has been developed with the victim in mind - increasing credibility and the likelihood of that individual clicking on the link. Once the link is opened the attacker will launch a quiet attack, accessing the victim's device along with all their personal information.
By following a few simple rules and tips, when interacting on social networks, individuals will be able to diminish the probability of a potentially devastating attack.
Top tips include:
• Do not accept invitations from people you don't know even if the requestor is friends with someone in your network.
• Take full advantage of the privacy settings most social networks offer and ensure information you post can only be seen by those you have accepted into your network. Be cognizant of the information that you post on your social media accounts.
• Be suspicious and cautious about information that is sent from people you don't know, especially if it contains more personal information than you would have shared with them.
• Avoid leaving clues to security questions you may have established on other more sensitive sites such as online banking - for example, the city of your birth, your mother's maiden name.
• Bring a healthy dose of suspicion to any online interaction, looking out for something that may be odd - report any suspicious behavior, as you would in the real world.
These simple precautions are the first step towards making social networks a safer environment for yourself and the rest of your network.