Dealing with Social Media Insecurities

Published on: 11 Sep, 2017
Dealing with Social Media Insecurities

Dealing with Social Media Insecurities

Social media is one of the most overwhelming trends of this decade. Social media can be positive, allowing users to create and share content within their social circles. However, users also face the potential for embarrassment, humiliation, data loss, identity thefts, etc. as a result of social media misuse.

Remember that any information shared on social media becomes the property of the host site and is shared according to user privacy settings. The nature of social media makes it vulnerable to multiple insecurities that can pose serious threat to personal and enterprise security.

Common Social Media Threats

Unfortunately, almost anyone can be impersonated on social media very easily. This is quite common and mostly done to masquerade as some celebrity or popular figure. While large social media giants should be able to curb this practice digitally using current technologies, few have chosen to actively do so.

Information sources for targeted cyberattacks
Targeted cyberattacks, like social engineering and spear phishing, are always a potent threats. But social media can make it even more convenient for attackers to gain the information they need to pursue these attacks. Attackers can easily use social media to access and misuse personal information about potential targets. For example, attackers may use fake friend accounts to obtain targets’ trust over time and gain confidential information or even convince targets to visit some malicious site. There are also a few websites willing, for a price, to scour social media to gather information about specific targets.
Propaganda tends to flourish where it has an audience, and, right now, one of the largest audiences is available on social media. Thus, both state and non-state actors have quickly taken advantages of social media to spread their own agendas. Naïve users unknowingly join these campaigns daily.
What is the threat? The threat is that a large portion of society might rely on this propaganda to build opinions, rather than researching and relying on the facts. This manipulation of public opinion can result in public outcries, legal challenges and resulting changes that would have likely never occurred if people knew the truth.

Spam and malware
Social media is also used by attackers to spread malware through malicious links. The popularity of contracted URLs, rather than full URLs, on social media is a significant catalyst for this spread. Criminals can mask links with short URLs, making it difficult for a link to be identified as malicious.

Information exposure
Confidential information exposure, at its most innocent, may just be due to incorrect privacy settings. However, this threat may also be intentional, such as when a rogue employee chooses to reveal a company’s secret information on social media. It is next to impossible to undo the damage caused by information exposure. Once the information is out on social media, or the Internet in general, it is almost unmanageable.

Tips for Positive Social Media Use

Knowing the threats posed by social media is not enough. The next step is to determine the best steps to use social media in a positive way.

Protect your passwords
Set up strong passwords for your social media accounts. Do not use the same password(s) for more than one account. Change your account passwords periodically. Do not let the browser save passwords for you.

Safeguard your identity
Avoid sharing information on social media that can be used to identify you, such as home or office address; phone number; date of birth; passport, social security or other identification numbers.

Review social media settings
Always take time to learn the basics of social networking site you are going to use. Understand the privacy settings and make use of them as per your need. Be sure you understand the impact of your settings beforehand. Keep an eye on usage statistics, like timings, and revisit them often to identify any improper use.

Surf in a safe environment
Follow secure browsing practices. Make sure the site is secure by ensuring there is an “https” with a padlock in the URL. Avoid using the Internet at insecure places like airports and public areas with open WiFi access.

Avoid treating social media too casually. Beware of social engineering and propaganda. Avoid clicking on unknown links. Consider checking a link’s credibility by using a site that offers those services. Give new applications time to work out their issues before trying them. Do not share your vacation or traveling plans on social media.

Choose connections wisely
When selecting “friends” or other connections on social media, use proper scrutiny. Block or unfriend people who you don’t know or who make you feel uncomfortable.

Avoid becoming part of the threat
Do not share posts that you do not understand or fully support. Avoid sharing any links or applications with questionable security. Never share anything about someone that he or she might consider confidential; when in doubt, ask first. Abide by the law of the land. Avoid partaking in any kind of harassment, defamation or propaganda campaigns.


Social media can be used for great good, but it can also cause major problems. Safe social media use is critical and requires remaining aware of the prevalent social media threat environment and taking necessary precautions for safety and security.
About the Author
Abdul B. Subhani is the founder and President/CEO of Centex Technologies, an IT consulting company with offices in Central Texas, Dallas, and Atlanta. He is also an adjunct faculty member of the Texas A&M University - Central Texas computer information systems department. Abdul is a Certified Ethical Hacker, a Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control, a Texas Licensed Private Investigator, member of FBI Infragard and the recipient of multiple other advanced IT credentials. Abdul has been a frequent keynote speaker, moderator, and panelist at leading international technology conferences, and he has given speeches to thousands of students at colleges and universities.