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How to keep social media hackers from sabotaging your business

Every other week, a high-profile individual makes headlines for getting their social media accounts hacked and taken over. While it’s easy to blame the platforms for poor security, the reality is that the onus is on users to ensure their accounts are safe against malicious actors.

As of 2019, there are about 18 million Australians actively engaged on one or more social media platforms. This is a strong incentive for businesses to build up their social media presence to reach a wider audience. Unfortunately, this deepening fixation with social media increases the treasure trove of data that successful hackers can now get their hands on. 

In less than two weeks, Shane Watson was attacked twice by hackers, with racist, vile slurs and X-rated content, as well as suspicious links, published without warning for his one million followers to see. The feted cricketer was forced to issue an apology, though he thankfully regained access to his accounts and was able to take down the posts.

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But for SMBs, it might not always be quite so easy to bounce back from such a hit. With social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter bombarded with millions of user demands every day, businesses cannot afford to rely on the platforms to fix their problems quickly.

It can take some time to verify your identity and restore or remove an account promptly, by which time the damage could be irreversible. 

Minimising risks

Cyber security breaches are a rising threat to the everyday functions of small businesses. Australia’s national Notifiable Data Breaches scheme found over half of the 245 breaches in the three months to June 2019 were deliberately crafted to exploit known vulnerabilities for financial or other gain. Before it is too late, there are easy-to-implement strategies leaders can employ to help safeguard their data.

  • The most common piece of advice consumers hear is to use a complex password, with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation — but this is only your first line of defence. One habit that can be the difference between whether hackers are able to penetrate your account is making the effort to change your credentials regularly, and using unique passwords for each platform.
  • Authorising third-party apps to manipulate your account’s information can leave the door open for your data to be compromised. Take a critical eye to any permissions granted and resist engaging with unauthorised services that are against the platforms’ rules, like buying followers.
  • Quick and convenient public WiFi hotspots at your local café, shopping centre or during transit are often too good to be true, because any information sent or received over an unsecure connection can be intercepted. If connecting can’t be avoided, don’t enter any passwords or data which could be of value.
  • Evaluate your cyber security software and make sure it’s going the distance for you or your business. Hackers are constantly developing new ways to mine your information, and your assets could be vulnerable if your provider is not up to standard.

Tyler Moffitt is a senior threat research analyst at Webroot. 

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