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Social Media Attacks

With the escalation of identity theft crimes that lead to drained bank accounts and ruined credit, more and more people are taking measures to protect themselves, including shredding paperwork, exercising caution with telephone callers, and safeguarding personal documents, identification, credit cards and checkbooks. However, criminals can also take advantage of information shared on the Internet for malicious purposes. With spear phishing –online attacks targeted at certain individuals – keyboards and trackpads become covert surveillance tools, ultimately enabling criminals to use your online footprint to threaten you in real life. Spear phishers peruse social media sites to find readily available personal information, like your name, family members, alma mater, and even your address. They scan your posts and photos for personal details they can use to gain your trust.

Knowing that your profiles could be monitored might be unnerving, but the right safeguards can establish a protective defense between you and would-be attackers. In fact, defending yourself and your family from social media attackers is similar to defending your home against thieves. Like your home, your online accounts can be protected with three key measures: locking down, taking precautions, and keeping watch.

Lockdown: hiding your posts from the public puts a padlock on your information.

  • Check the privacy settings on your social networking profiles. Restrict your posts and profile visibility to friends only, so that you can exercise more control over your shared information.
  • Set aside time to review the privacy settings on each social media site you use. Hackers and phishers can string together passwords using an information chain from vulnerable accounts, even if you use those accounts infrequently.
  • Turn off any geo-tracking features or location services. These record and publish your location and movements, revealing your exact location to your contacts—and possibly others.

Precaution: putting good social media practices in place protects your family in the same way an alarm system would.

  • Avoid posting about upcoming vacations or trips, and wait until you are home to share photos and updates. Revealing that you are out of town can expose you and your family to a targeted risk.
  • If in the military, or close to someone who is, always keep proprietary information like troop movements, deployments, personnel rosters, or weapons information offline. Sharing this information puts military and national security at severe risk.
  • Review your posts with safety in mind. While sharing your upcoming schedule might feel natural, publicizing details about your planned activities, event times and locations, or even the school your children attend can allow someone to guess where you and your family will be next.  When in doubt, post after the event.
  • Do not post about recent purchases or your financial services provider. Phishers use these seemingly innocuous tidbits to pose as retailers and request your information.

Watchfulness: keeping an eye on your incoming communication is the best defense against infiltration, much like a vigilant neighborhood watch.

  • Beware of any e-mails or messages from unknown contacts, even if they address you by name. Phishers claiming to be a mutual friend or distant relative use the guise of familiarity to access your information.
  • Call any friend or relative who asks for your personal information via e-mail, text message, or social media to verify his or her request.
  • Forward any suspicious e-mails claiming to be from your bank to your bank's support e-mail address.
  • Hover over links in e-mails with your mouse to see the URL pop-up. If the URL appears different from the link, do not click on it.

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