Social media has completely redefined our lives. From how we communicate to the type of information we broadcast, people worldwide have used these platforms to make new friends, share information, start and promote businesses, and so much more.

These platforms have become amazingly convenient and powerful to the point where they have become a centerpiece of most people’s lives. The ubiquity of social media has led many users to forget how public their profiles are, sharing information that can put them and their employers at risk of cyber attacks.

From data breaches to full-on impersonation, the impact of improper social media use can be devastating for businesses. This article will review the main potential dangers for companies and ways to protect themselves.

How Cyber Criminals Use Social Media

The main difference between a personal social media hack and a business one is scale. Phishing and spoofing attacks can be very damaging to a single person but can set off a catastrophic chain of events if a company is targeted.

Below are the three main types of attacks and their results when hackers use social media to target businesses:


Just like email, social media is a platform rife with phishing scams. With a work-focused platform like LinkedIn, it can be frighteningly simple to systematically target all the organization’s employees. One of the most common phishing tactics is to pretend to be the victim’s work superior, information that is only a few clicks away on social media.

Additionally, users are much less adept at catching phishing red flags on a platform with fewer giveaways than email. Since there is no domain or email address to check, it can be challenging to determine if a communication is fraudulent on social media.

In some cases, phishing is also used to gain access to the login credentials of the company’s social media page to further scam users.

Fake Pages and Spoofing

Pretending to be a recognized brand on social media can be a devastating scam that is relatively easy to set up.

Most social media allow users to create company pages at will for free. This opens the avenue for hackers to exploit the situation to reach out to users and convince them to give sensitive information over direct messages, such as their password or security question answers.

Some go a step further by combining their impersonation with a spoofed website matching the brand’s web presence. The hackers then convince users to enter their login info and steal their information.

Data Gathering for Social Engineering

One of the scariest evolution in the world of phishing has been the concept of spear phishing. This variant requires detailed information on the target victim, the company they work for, and their coworkers in an attempt to steal data or logins.

Social media is often a goldmine for hackers looking to add social engineering to their arsenal. Most people tend to share far too much information on their social media profiles, making their entire social circle vulnerable to phishing down the line.

Company Risks Related to Social Media

Using the attack methods mentioned in the prior section, hackers can accomplish a number of results:

Brand Impersonation

Whether the account has been breached or it’s through a fake company page, brand impersonation can lead employees and customers to surrender their personal or sensitive information without ever suspecting a hack.

Reputation Impact

Another possibility when hackers take over an account is a slew of social media posts alerting the public to the hack or various messages relevant to the hackers. This can have a very damaging effect on the company’s reputation, both from the messages and public perception angle.

Data Breach

Whether through phishing or a fake account, data breaches are the ultimate goal of most hackers. They rely on the fact that most people are more trusting on these platforms to send them fraudulent links

3 Ways to Mitigate Social Media Risks

The best way to keep your users safe is to keep them aware and monitor your organization’s social media usage:

Establish social media policies

It’s a common misconception that social media policies are only for large organizations, but a company of any size can use one. The only thing that should change is the scale. Not all social media policies have to be restrictive. It’s better to see it as another opportunity to improve your users’ training.

Make sure to adapt your social media policy to different departments and even per country. Their needs might be very different, and the platforms used in other countries can be highly different from what you are used to.

Train employees on social media best practices

Social media is a communication tool, and hackers will take advantage of it to steal information. Make sure your employees are fully aware of that fact via regular training to keep them informed on the cyber threats of social media.

A good portion of classic phishing tips can be reused here. For example, if you are contacted by someone claiming to be a coworker on LinkedIn, double-check that they list the official company page as their employer.

In the same way, it’s a great practice to double-check your LinkedIn employee list with an official HR one to ensure no one is trying to impersonate your employees.

Monitor social media activity

Every mid to large company should put a social listening plan in place to keep tabs on what is being said about their brand to react promptly. From careful community management to sentiment analysis software, keeping an ear to what happens on social media is the best way to evaluate and fix vulnerabilities.

Running phishing simulations shouldn’t be reserved to email and text messages. Your users should be regularly tested on the social media platforms they use most for work.

Keep Social Media Risks Low

Social media is another platform you must monitor to keep your company safe. The rules and signs sometimes differ from attacks over email, but most training carries over. The possibility of making fake profiles gives more resources to hackers to be believable, but it also gives them more potential to make mistakes.



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