With attacks on enterprise networks becoming more sophisticated, organizations have stepped up perimeter security by investing in the latest firewall, data protection, and intrusion prevention technologies. In response, hackers are moving to the path of least resistance and looking for new avenues to exploit. Many security experts believe the next wave of enterprise hacking will be carried out via social media channels.
Social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become ubiquitous. They help us connect with friends and family, find jobs, share experiences, promote personal interests and business offerings. Social networks have also become a powerful political tool, as the uprising in the Middle East has demonstrated.
Government and businesses around the world now recognize the power and benefits of social networks for mass communications, news distribution, as well as promotion of products and services. However, when combined with social engineering efforts, they also have a dark side and pose a tremendous risk to organizations in today’s interconnected world.
Social media cyber war is nothing new though. As a matter of fact, the first reported incidents date back more than a decade when hackers in St. Petersburg shut down the website of a nuclear power plant and spread a rumour via social media outlets that a nuclear melt-down had occurred. The incident caused a major panic until it was declared to be a hoax.
Since then, due to the mass adoption of social networks, the risk posed by social media has increased dramatically.
According to Symantec’s 2014 Internet Security Threat Report, the primary motive behind social networking attacks is monetary gain. The report outlines that phishing attacks are evolving, “moving further away from email and into the social media landscape.” Nonetheless, the same techniques that security professionals have observed in phishing and spam emails are being leveraged in social media campaigns.
These include, but are not limited to
• Fake Offers, which often requires the user to share credentials;
• “Likejacking”, whereby fake “Like” buttons install malware to ultimately gain access to the user’s computer;
• Fake Plug-ins, tricking users to download fake Internet browser extensions, which can pose as legitimate extensions, but in reality steal sensitive information from the infected machine; and
• Fake Apps, tricking users to install a supplemental application that appears to be integrated for use with a social network, but is used to steal access credentials.
Despite the increased frequency of these attacks, the risk level associated with social media threats has yet to reach its zenith. Most businesses are still struggling with the fundamentals, such as creating enforceable social media policies for their employees. Social media warfare will only accelerate the need to manage this new threat vector.