Recent years have seen a rise in users’ concerns about their privacy on social media. Many users have been alarmed by data breaches, which have made them rethink their relationships to social media and the security of their personal information. One example is the dramatic story of the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. More than 50 million Facebook users’ private information was exploited to influence the 2016 American presidential election. In light of this example and others, public trust has steadily declined, with many users wondering if they are still in control of their data. A survey conducted by the Pew Trust found that 80 percent of social media users are concerned about businesses and advertisers accessing their social media posts. Privacy concerns have led to calls for stronger regulations. Furthermore, they have made companies responsible for safeguarding personal information more accountable.
As social media privacy issues and concerns continue to grow, skilled cybersecurity professionals will play an increasingly crucial role in protecting social media users’ data and personal information.
Social networks are used by over 45 percent of the world’s population. That means 3.48 billion people use social media in some form. This kind of exposure leaves users vulnerable in several ways. When personal information is compromised, the repercussions can be disastrous. According to Pew Trust, 13 percent of Americans have had their social media accounts hacked. Among other things, hacks can lead to the theft of information and the sharing of malicious links that redirect followers to malware. Due to their ability to collect and store vast amounts of personal information with little government oversight, social media platforms are attractive targets for cybercriminals looking to commit fraud and theft. Besides Cambridge Analytica’s breach of Facebook data, another rising concern has to do with how bad actors access private information from social media platforms and elsewhere and use it to manipulate opinions for a few.
Cyber-threats to social media privacy
It is easy for criminals to trick social media users into handing over sensitive information, stealing personal data, and gaining access to accounts users consider private. Below is a list of typical social media threats.
One of the most common ways criminals gain access to sensitive personal information is through phishing. Usually, a phishing scam is a message that appears to come from a legitimate company, such as an email, text message, or phone call. People are tricked into sharing sensitive information through these messages, such as their passwords, banking information, or credit card information. Fraudulent social media sites are often used in phishing attacks. During August of this year, phishing campaigns targeted Instagram users with a spoof two-factor authentication system, which prompted them to log in to a false Instagram account.
Attacks by botnets
Bots are accounts that automatically post or follow people when a certain term is mentioned. There are large numbers of bots that can form a botnet. Bots and botnets are widely used in social media and are used to steal data, send spam, and launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that help cybercriminals gain access to a user’s devices and networks.
The purpose of malware (malicious software) is to gain access to computers and their data. Once malware has infiltrated a computer system, it can be employed to steal sensitive information (spyware), extort money (ransomware), or benefit from forced advertisements (adware). Distributing malware through social media platforms is an ideal method for malware distributors. As soon as an account is compromised (often by obtaining passwords through phishing attacks), cybercriminals can take control of that account and distribute malware to all the user’s contacts.
On the Internet, everyone leaves a trail of data. The information people provide to social media sites when they open a new account includes their name, birth date, geographic location, and personal interests. Companies also collect data on user behaviors, such as when, where, and how users interact with their platforms. Using all of this information, companies are better able to target advertising to their customers. There are times when companies share users’ data with third-party entities without the users’ knowledge or consent.
There will be privacy threats in 2020 similar to those outlined above. It is likely that these attacks will increase as we get closer to the 2020 presidential election. Politico reported earlier this year that disinformation campaigns aimed at Democratic candidates have already begun. Now, hackers using the same tactics employed by the trolls of the Internet Research Agency are using social media data to wage what they call a “war” of misinformation aimed at confusing and polarizing Americans. Oftentimes, cyber-propaganda is spread via bot accounts that mine data to target preferred audiences. There is no way to predict the full impact of social media attacks on elections in state, federal, and presidential 2020.
Eventually, social media apps may be required to protect the privacy and safety of their users.
Meanwhile, there are steps you can take to protect your privacy.
With a VPN, you can help secure your data and limit the amount of information that companies can gather about your browsing habits.
Through the use of a VPN, you can access the internet quickly and privately while protecting your social media accounts.