Anti-Social Media: 6 Ways Criminals Weaponize “Likes”

Posted by graham.westbrook
June 29, 2020

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If you’re anything like the other 3.8 billion social media users around the world, you’re spending about 2 hours and 24 minutes a day on social. That’s 547.2 BILLION minutes a DAY that people on earth are spending swiping left and right, chatting with friends, posting selfies and slingin’ likes. 

But every 'like' is a lure or learning moment for a cyber criminal. They know that users share endless amounts of information online. Every post helps them understand what you like, what you dislike, and which scams you’re more likely to fall for. And the more they know about you, the more vulnerable and easier to attack you become. 

Common Social Media Scams

To help you stay safe on social media we’ve created a list of the most popular social media scams. Warning: some may look dangerously familiar. 

  • Romance scams
    • They happen when cybercriminals use a fake profile to gain your friendship and trust. Once they have enough good contacts, they’re likely to get in touch saying they’re in trouble and need money. Believe it or not, for years this has been the most popular and the most effective social media scam!
  • Social media phishing
    • Like with all other types of phishing, also here cybercriminals are playing on our emotions or trying to lure us by advertising “special offers” or “amazing gifts”. Those posts usually come in with a link to a website which requests your personal data (which may later be used to take full control of your profile) or immediately infects your computer. Another common social media phishing example is when you see a post by your friend saying he lost his valet and needs your help. You may be keen to give him some money but remember that most probably his account was simply hijacked!
  • Chain Letters
    • How many of those do you see daily: 
    • “Share this post and this poor girl will receive the medical treatment she needs”
    • “Retweet this and help the charity to fight hunger”?
    • They may be published by pranksters for pure fun but may also be used by cybercriminals to create a database of “friends” which they can scam later. Don’t give them an opportunity to enlarge their contact list – don’t retweet and don’t share. 
  • Quizzes and Games
    • “Which celebrity do you resemble the most?” “Check out what will you look like in 40 years!”
    • Those games seem harmless and you may see many of your friends taking part. But remember that often while accessing them you’re giving away sensitive information about yourself. In some cases when clicking on them you may be asked to enter your phone number, only to discover sometime after that you were charged for this “quiz” and that it was a pretty expensive one…
  • Hidden URLs
    • They’re everywhere on social media. In fact, it’s difficult to post a www address there without creating a shorter version of its URLs. But beware that many of them may have been created to hide a real address of an infected website.
  • Clickbait
    • Cybercriminals work hard to attract your attention – after all, they have a lot to gain by convincing you to click on a link they provide! Celebrity news, great looking videos – they all work as baits. Once you click, you’ll be asked to sign in. What happens with your personal details afterwards is in cybercriminals’ hands. 

How to Defend Yourself against Social Media Scams

Luckily for us, there are things we can do to minimize possibilities of an attack. Here’s what to think of when using social media:

  • Provide minimal information about yourself or your relatives. Remember that everything you post will stay on the Internet and may be used, even many years later.
  • Use strong and unique passwords for all your accounts and change them regularly. 
  • Make your accounts private or limit what can be seen by the public. 
  • Think before acting. Take your time to analyze whether what you’re doing on Facebook or Twitter is really worth the risk it poses. Also, remember not to trust things which look too good to be true.
  • If you received a message from a friend who needs help, check it directly with them. Call them, ask about the request and see whether it’s true. 
  • Use two-factor authentication. This is the most efficient way to avoid being hacked. 
  • Don’t trust people you don’t know. Don’t add contacts which you’re not sure who they’re and don’t provide your personal information to anyone. 
  • Delete your old social media accounts.
  • Make sure you have a good antivirus software installed and that it’s updated regularly. 
  • Keep raising your awareness on cyber security issues. 

Social media is amazing. They give us so much fun and make us feel a part of a huge community, not limited by any borders. But it’s easy to forget that things we post there can be seen and used by malicious users and that some of the posts we look at may be harmful. Knowing about those threats helps us become more careful and enjoy the beauty of social media in a safe way. 

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