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Security Experts Warn Social Media is 2018's Biggest Data Threat

Article date: Tue, 19 Jun 2018 13:20 GMT

UKFast Enterprise MD Jonathan Bowers

With 83 per cent of the UK adult population now on social media, security experts are warning users that there are more opportunities than ever before to fall victim to identity fraud.       

Cybercrime reached epidemic levels in 2017, with online crime making up 83 per cent of all fraud cases, according to research by fraud prevention organisation CIFAS.

Lawrence Jones MBE, CEO of hosting and colocation firm UKFast, warned that this year has to be the year we learn how to be secure on social media.       

He said: “Whilst it’s very easy to get caught up with the one-upmanship of social media and sharing every aspect of your life to compete and fit in with your peers, ultimately we are becoming distracted by the value of the information we are sharing. Showing off about your new home could inadvertently give away your address, combining that with a post about your upcoming holiday, suddenly people know where you live and when the house is empty.

“Whilst social media is an incredible tool, it comes with its risks. Social media has transformed the business landscape and evolved massively over the past few years, yet our knowledge of how to protect ourselves from online threats is seriously lagging behind.”    

James Williams, senior security consultant at cybersecurity firm Secarma, believes it’s never been more important to be vigilant with your data, especially on social media.       

He said: “In recent years, social media has become a hotbed for cybercriminal activity. Attackers are drawn to these channels because users are so free to input personal details and content.  

“When you first sign up you put all your information there, and very little has been done to educate everyone on how that data is being used, where it goes, and why it’s needed. Then, there’s the other side of it – your profile. People are very quick to share their personal details without thinking of the consequences of those actions. If you’re willing to share information on a public platform then really you’re willing to be a victim of identity theft.”

Anna Dick, Chief Technical Officer at recruitment platform Hiring Hub, believes most users don’t understand the potential impact, of the data they’re sharing on their social media channels.  

She explained: “We are putting so much data into social media as consumers; a scary amount, actually. Yes it’s an incredible tool, especially in business cases, but it’s also a huge threat for both personal and professional use. People don’t understand what’s happening with their data. They just think in the moment, they don’t understand where their data ends up, and how it might be shared or used for other purposes.                   

“Looking back, we’ve seen social media develop into a plane of opportunity but with that comes the opportunity to become incredibly vulnerable, too.”

The comments were made during a cybersecurity webinar at UKFast Campus in Manchester.


Five top tips for staying ahead of cyber-fraudsters

1. Check your privacy settings

It’s good practice to review your social media settings at least once a quarter to check in with who can see what you share online. It’s easier than ever to customise your privacy settings on each platform to lock down your information.

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, it’s clear that we never really know who can access our data, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution. The more you share, the more at risk of identity fraud you are.

2. Do you know what you’re sharing?

Behind the images and posts, there may be a lot of hidden data. The metadata hides a whole host of information from geotags to timestamps (sharing where you were and when), and even the device the image was taken on. Whilst some networks delete metadata of this sort, not all services do.

3. What’s in the background?

Does your social media post have any unwitting information in the background? Letters on desks and information on computer screens can offer key clues for criminals to take advantage of. Similarly, posting a selfie at work with your security pass in the image is handing fraudsters a vital piece of information to replicate.

4. Limit your information

Whilst it seems like we’re obliged to input every single detail in the fields in social media profiles, actually, we’re not. The majority of this information is optional. When you really think about it, you’re handing your data over on a plate when you complete these forms: where you went to school, where you currently live and where you’ve lived in the past, your relatives’ names (and their maiden names if they’re on the platform too – hello, password clues), your pets, your interests, your date of birth. When your profile is public, this information is ripe for the taking by cyber-fraudsters.

5. Use strong passwords

Passwords are key to protecting your identity, so make them strong. As ever, learn how to choose a secure password or use a password manager.

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