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Social Media and safe use for Business purposes

Social media is the personal use of digital means of communication, which before the late 1990s and early 2000s had been used solely for professional purposes.

 

Platforms for social media have undoubtedly surged in popularity over the last decade. Does anyone even remember the original: “myspace”?

 

Starting in earnest with Facebook, social media have become an integral part of our interconnected digital world, revolutionizing the way we communicate, share information, and conduct business. This article explores the multifaceted impact of social media on society, from roots in personal connections to its pivotal role in the business landscape, while also delving into the cybersecurity risks businesses face in this digital realm.

 

How do you define social media?

 

“Social media” has become a noun in its own right, despite starting out as a series of online platforms developed between 2004 and 2010 to facilitate the creation and sharing of highly personal digital content. Professional, and educational, or merely just entertaining, platforms also emerged, but it was the “social” aspect that captured the imagination, fostering virtual communities and many, many personal connections. From early platforms like Friendster to the dominant players of today—Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and more—social media has evolved into a dynamic and pervasive force enabling us to communicate, share and consume content at the touch of our fingertips.

 

 

Social media has transformed the way society communicates at all levels, breaking down geographical barriers and creating a global village. Individuals can share personal experiences, opinions, and ideas with unprecedented reach. It has given rise to social movements, fuelled activism, and provided a platform for marginalized voices, contributing to a more interconnected and aware society.

 

One of the undeniable benefits of social media is its ability to keep people connected. Whether rekindling old friendships or maintaining family ties across continents, platforms like Facebook have redefined the concept of social relationships. The immediacy of communication has become a hallmark of these platforms, allowing for real-time updates and engagement. There is a negative side to this though – hate speech.




Social media platforms have been utilised for its benefits by businesses too, as powerful tools for marketing, brand building, and customer engagement.

 

Companies also leverage platforms like Instagram and X to connect with their audience, showcase products, and participate in conversations, but in the same way that personal communications can become hateful, an encouraging customer interaction should be done in a controlled way.

 

Business-business hubs like LinkedIn have become preferred platforms for professional networking, job recruitment, and industry collaboration.

 

“Social Media” Risks to Businesses:

 

Apart from the obvious hate speech etc., problems, social media present other significant risks to businesses, particularly relating to cybersecurity and exploitation of vulnerabilities. If an employee has a name that can be associated with a social media identity, their online activities can be harvested and information gleaned can be used for social engineering attacks, such as guessing user passwords and gaining unauthorized access to corporate information.

 

1. Information Harvesting

 

The more popular social media platforms are a treasure trove of personal information. Cybercriminals often employ tactics like social engineering and phishing to manipulate users into revealing sensitive details. By profiling individuals through their online activities, attackers can craft convincing scams or gain unauthorized access to accounts.

 

Social media have therefore become a vector for phishing and more targeted spear phishing attempts on businesses, potentially leading to data breaches or financial losses. Employees should not, therefore, use these media in any way in relation to work or work-related activities, and if they do so it should be a disciplinary offence.

 

 

2. Business Risks via Phishing, Spear Phishing and Social Engineering

 

This method of information gathering and planning of cyber attacks has a large psychological component, and people at all levels in organisations are regularly fooled.

 

Attackers leverage social media to gather intelligence for targeted attacks. Spear phishing, a highly targeted form of phishing, relies on information gleaned from social media profiles to create personalized and deceptive messages. Much better therefore not to engage! Employees who do become vulnerable to snooping and further such attacks, potentially leading to unauthorized access to their organisation’s systems, data breaches, financial losses, and even bankruptcies.

 

Moreover, the risks associated with social media extend beyond individual accounts. Unauthorized access to employee profiles can be exploited to gain entry into higher level accounts. Additionally, malicious actors may use company-related information available on social media to craft convincing attacks, such as impersonating executives to trick employees into divulging sensitive information.

 

3. Reputational Damage

 

Improper use of social media by employees can harm a company's reputation. This should be obvious, but inappropriate posts, controversial comments, or leaked confidential information quickly go viral, tarnishing the brand image and eroding customer trust.

 

4. Social media as a Gateway

 

Social media serves as a gateway for attackers to exploit other cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Links shared on these platforms may lead to malicious websites or initiate downloads of malware. Once a user's device is compromised, it becomes a potential entry point into a larger network, posing serious threats to the security of business systems.

 

 

Mitigation Strategies

 

To counter these dangers, individuals and businesses, many well-practised cybersecurity measures are available to the organisation. Companies need to have enforced social media usage policies for ALL employees to mitigate against such risks. This necessarily includes regular security awareness training, implementing multi-factor authentication, and closely monitoring social media accounts for suspicious activities. Businesses should also establish robust social media policies and educate employees on the potential risks associated with their online presence. If possible, they should set up ALL employee user identities so that the browsers will not allow those employees to access social media platforms. If employees wish to use social media it should not be with company resources, or in the time (9-5?) that they are paid to be employees by that company.

 

If the organisation uses social media for marketing purposes, they should use a particular identity, which cannot easily be associated with a company username such as marketing@xyz.com . As ever, don’t make it easy for cybercriminals! They should also be careful which social media they use for advertising and other marketing purposes. An analysis of which platform is most appropriate for B2B and B2C businesses is beyond this article, but businesses should conduct due diligence.

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, social media's impact on society is profound, offering unprecedented connectivity and opportunities for businesses. However, the allure of these platforms comes with inherent risks, especially in the realm of cybersecurity. The interconnected nature of social media platforms makes businesses susceptible to various cybersecurity threats. Spear phishing, malware distribution, and impersonation attacks are on the rise.

 

Businesses must navigate the delicate balance of utilizing social media for growth while implementing robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard sensitive information. As businesses continue to embrace social media, a proactive approach to cybersecurity is imperative to mitigate potential threats and ensure a safe and fruitful online presence.

 

Useful Links


The impact of social media on your business:


Common Cyber Security Risks Associated With Social Media Use and How Individuals Can Protect Themselves:

Cyber security advice for small to medium sized businesses

 

 

Get Safe Online social media article:

 

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