Social Media Security Essentials to Help Users Stay Protected

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Cyber criminals steal $3.25 billion every year by exploiting social media platforms. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are fertile ground for cyber criminals. Social media users should be aware of the techniques and tactics used by cyber criminals and take steps to protect themselves.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by University of North Dakota’s Online Master of Science in Cyber Security program.

How to keep safe against the rising influx of cybercrime on social media platforms.

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Social Media Cybercrime Statistics

Between 2015 and 2017, social media cybercrime increased an estimated 300-fold. This alarming increase in cybercrime is fueling a multibillion-dollar underground economy, and social media users are easy targets.

Counting the Cost of Cybercrime

According to Bromium’s “Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy” report, 40% of malware is connected to malvertising, and 38% of malware comes from malicious plug-ins and apps. The report also states that 20% of organizations have been infected by malware distributed through social media.

Additionally, around half of the illicit trading of data between 2017 and 2018 was associated with social media platform hacking. Social media-enabled fraud has helped criminal revenue increase by more than 60% since 2017. There’s also been a 36% increase in the use of social media platforms to recruit unassuming “money mules” under 21 since 2016. Additionally, four of the five most popular websites hosting cryptojacking code are social media platforms.

The social media-enabled cybercrime economy is diverse. It generates its collective billions of dollars from malware, stolen personal data, financial fraud, illegal pharmaceutical sales and romance/dating fraud. The types of social media cybercrimes include money laundering, cryptojacking, illegal sales, illicit trading of personal information and setting up fake accounts.

Tools and Tactics of Cyber Criminals

For a variety of reasons, social media platforms are popular and accessible means of enabling cybercrime. It’s also been determined that millennial social media users may be more susceptible to cyberattacks than baby boomers.

Why Social Media?

There are 20% more methods to scam or rip off social media users, compared to visitors of other websites. The reasons for this include engaging advertising, sharing buttons, plug-ins, a wide audience and extensive connections supporting rapid infection.

Social media users are attractive to cyber criminals because of users’ inherent trust in social media. There’s also a large volume of publicly available information available, and it’s easy for cyber criminals to identify vulnerabilities and create a focused attack.

There are also numerous reasons why social media cybercrimes are increasing. These reasons include an increased availability of online hacking services, tutorials, and tools; social media platforms becoming dark web equivalents; and social media platforms sharing links to dark web resources.

Social Media Attack Tactics

Some of the tactics deployed by cyber criminals aren’t too surprising. These include infected advertisements that deliver virus through a clicked ad, prompting users to click on a web link that contains malware, and phishing techniques. Other tactics may look comparatively innocuous, such as spreading infections through funny photos and videos, clicking on activity updates, or engaging in apps and plug-ins like personality tests or game downloads.

Easier Targets: Millennials or Baby Boomers?

Less than a third of millennials feel they’re to blame if they’re targeted by a cyberattack, and one in five don’t worry about security because they believe it’s not their responsibility. Additionally, 38% of millennials believe cyber criminals aren’t interested in targeting them. 31% also share passwords across online accounts.

42% of boomers, on the other hand, always use a secure password. They also spend less time on social media compared with millennials, and 15% share passwords across online accounts.

Tips for Social Media Security

Cybercrime may not be entirely preventable, but internet users can take steps to lower their risk of falling victim to cyberattacks.

9 Tips for Staying Cyber-Safe on Social Media

One of the key ways to keep yourself safe is to build strong passwords that aren’t reused elsewhere. Another safeguard is to adjust account and privacy settings. Thirdly, using a virtual private network or VPN can be vital for cyber safety. It’s also important to stay informed about any breaches affecting various platforms. If you’re a parent, it’s critical to track your kids’ activity on your devices. Additionally, it’s important to keep devices and software updated. Using a full-service internet security suite is another terrific way to protect from cybercrime. It can also be wise to consider adding an extra layer of protection via two-factor authentication. Finally, it’s always a good idea to follow site-specific security recommendations.

There are a few key signs to watch out for that could inform of a hacked account. These include the appearance of a user’s personal materials on another account, receiving an email regarding changed login credentials, and a sudden following of unfamiliar accounts. Fortunately, there are several techniques you can use to recover a hacked or hijacked social media account. These include deleting the re-installing the app, checking login history, reviewing account activity and reporting spam.


Cybercrime is a growing concern, especially on social media, and is attracting the attention of cyber security professionals, social media users and organizations advertising on social media platforms. Social media cyber security largely depends on users’ ability to take preventive measures and their commitment to educating themselves on the latest cybercrime tactics.