Most social media users see social media as little more than a place where they can share stories, and a few laughs, with friends. Then marketers came along and saw the value in these large audiences.
Some of these marketers are honest people looking to expose their products to a relevant audience. Another group of these marketers are not so honest. They’re hackers, and they’re using the kind of ‘marketing’ techniques that people would call ‘black hat.’
I know that’s a bit of an odd thought. Hacking is just called hacking. No one thinks of it as marketing. It’s the same with email spam. It’s a very low percentage form of hacking. This is why people want to steal social media accounts: To use them for the kind of underhanded ‘marketing’ tactics are appalling at best, and illegal at worst. This article was written to help you protect your social media accounts, and applies equally to branded and personal social media accounts.
Social media account hacking issues
Stealing your identity
This is a favorite ‘hacking attack as marketing’ tactic as it steals audiences. Your social media account has an audience of however many people – your friends and followers. Hackers steal your online identity and use it to push out their content. This is common with pornography and other questionable websites.
While clicks on this type of content are low, a low conversion rate to use marketing speak, it’s not so low that hackers aren’t using them. Your first line of defense against these includes:
- Strong passwords: Brute force attacks are when a hacker uses a tool which allows them to guess many passwords over and over. They let the tool go to work until it finds the right password. If your password is a random collection of numbers, letters of upper and lower case, and symbols it will be nearly impossible for these tools to work.
- Multiple emails: Every piece of information is valuable. If you use one email for every social media account, publish it frequently, and use it as your login everywhere you’ve given away half of your protection. Use a private email address you don’t give out as your login. And relax, you can have multiple emails and forward them all to one inbox.
- Account recovery: Use the two factor authentication, and other password and account recovery tools, to help you get your account back. Two factor authentication involves a unique code being sent to your phone after you login through your password. It can prevent hacks from happening as the hacker will not have your phone (hopefully!) to get the unique code. Knowing your social media site’s account recovery initiative is your fail safe.
Assuming you’re safe because…
This is a big problem online as so many people just assume that their social media accounts, and everything they do online, is automatically safe. Not even messages in ‘Private Messages’ are all that private. And I’m not just talking about Facebook’s reading of your messages for data. One hack and that stalker of yours could find out EVERYTHING.
To be safe, never post the following in a public post, or even a private message:
- Travel plans. You may find yourself with another guest.
- Your home address. The same problems as travelling above, you’re giving a stalker your most important piece of information.
- Your daily schedule. Do you understand yet that not all social media account hackers are the type looking to do malicious marketing?
- Bank details. They’re ‘private’ until your account is hacked and the hacker can read them plain as day.
The last two points on assuming you’re safe is with public WiFi. Most home WiFi uses WPA2 encryption, a very high level of encryption. But there is no guarantee that any public WiFi uses this.
There are also fake WAP, or man in the middle, hacks. These insert a hacker between your computer and the public WiFi. They give hackers completely unrestricted access to any information given over the network. Signing into your Facebook on a fake WAP? It was just stolen.
Malicious code injection via links and downloads
This is when your account is taken over and it is used to share links which download viruses onto computers of those who click them. These people will be your friends and followers.
These links frequently come with “You won’t believe what this woman does when her husband isn’t home!” types of sensationalist headlines. When coupled with a link shortener, so that the link looks harmless, more clicks happen than anyone would likely want to admit.
Prevent these types of hacks by:
- Hover over the link to see the full link displayed by your browser. Where it displays varies from browser to browser, but just look and see if it’s a link to a website which you know. If you don’t know it …how curious are you? Curious enough to ruin your computer?
- For link shortened posts, use a tool like URLVoid. Copy the link and paste it into their tool and they’ll check to see if it is malicious or trustworthy.
- Another great tool is Where Does This Link Go. It expands shortened links, giving you a chance to evaluate them before you actually go to the website.
The lesson here is if you’re not sure, don’t click it. How great is your curiosity about what ‘that woman does while her husband is away’ anyway?
Social media is big business for the honest and dishonest alike
As social marketers, I wanted to illustrate for you that hacking isn’t purely about breaking into things. There are hacks that are purely about stealing audiences, and doing some good old fashioned low marketing with a low conversion rate.
Protecting your social media accounts will prevent you from being a victim. It will also keep your trust levels with your audience high. There’s nothing like a hack followed by malicious links to upset an audience.
Marcus is the online security writer for the Best VPN Provider’s weekly Internet Security Blog. You read more about online security there as he writes a new article every Wednesday. You can also follow the Best VPNs Twitter account for regular security news whenever you have a spare minute. Visit http://bestvpnprovider.co to learn more.