Criminal Activity On the Rise On Social Media

Cybercrime hits social media

Cybercrime has always been at least some concern for those who do business in the online world. With stories spread far and wide and about cybercriminals running rampant online, who isn’t a little hesitant when making an online transaction?

But despite this, for the most part, the online world is largely under control, with safe transactions being completed daily. The extremely powerful encryption software used for real money casino games, e-commerce and similar services means that transactions can be conducted online, with there being almost no chance of something going wrong, details being stolen, or cyber criminals interfering. The real risk is for those who are careless, and aren’t taking the necessary precautions. Or is it?

Recent statistics show that there has been a massive spike in criminal activity on social media websites. So much so that social media could be referred to as an online hotspot not just for illegal activity, but also for criminals to peddle their trade to those willing to buy.

Social Media – A Hunting Ground

Social media connects people in a way seen never before. A person could have friends in every corner of the globe and connect with them instantly, which is something that has never been possible before. This is wonderful for a number of reasons, and one can’t help but celebrate that social media seems to be making the world smaller, in the best possible way.

But people being connected across the world also mean something much less pleasant; they are opening themselves up to criminals on a global scale. It has recently been revealed that criminals are making use of social media to prey on victims, with more access to potential targets than ever before. And it isn’t just about snatching up sensitive details that people happen to carelessly share online. Powerful, dangerous software can be shared via social media, and this is the biggest risk of all.

Malware And Other Malicious Software

Infecting a computer with malicious software can potentially range from mild annoyance to extremely harmful. The worst thing about such software is that a person can be fooled into installing it fairly easily. A link can be shared via social media, which will appear perfectly harmless. Clicking the link, however, will take the user to an exterior website, where malicious software can be installed in just a few seconds.

Malware may simply be a minor annoyance, and often not very difficult to clean up. Ransomware, on the other hand, can be extremely hazardous, encrypting a computer and rendering it useless. The user will be asked to pay a ransom in order to regain control of the computer. There is nothing that can be done once the Ransomware is installed, and the only options remaining is to pay the ransom, or wipe the computer clean and start from scratch. In the case of valuable information being on the computer, this will almost certainly be lost, short of paying the asked sum.

How Do Criminals Operate On Social Media

Given the open nature of social media, criminals have as much access as everyone else. It is, therefore, not surprising that the increase in criminal activity has occurred. Of course, social media platforms do take steps in order to ensure the safety of users. Or at least give users the tools to control their own safety.

A criminal cannot interact with a social media user unless that person has granted them some level of access. Websites such as Facebook allow users to specifically control whom they interact with, in order to avoid such criminal elements, or other unwanted information. In other words, a criminal will have to gain some level of trust from a Facebook user, in order to take some sort of malicious action, or share a malicious link.

It need not be said that social media users should be cautious, and interact only with people they trust. Accepting friend invitations from unknown people is not a smart thing to do, although most will already be aware of this. It is also highly recommended to have Facebook set to only show a person’s account to trusted friends, and not be open to the public. This is, of course, the default setting for all Facebook users.

As the prevalence of social media grows, it is not only Facebook that is a target for cyber criminals, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms are also vulnerable, and users should always be aware of what they share and who they interact with. Their ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ may not always be that friendly!

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Research links:

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-36854285

https://www.cioinsight.com/security/slideshows/cyber-criminals-found-a-home-on-social-media-sites.html

https://www.isaca.org/chapters5/Cincinnati/Events/Documents/Past%20Presentations/2015/Social%20Media%20as%20Vector%20for%20Cyber%20Crime.pdf