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Stay Low: Tips for Preventing Social Media Cyber Crime Victimization

March 11th, 2015 | Business Security, Cyber, Privacy, Security | 0 Comments

Social media cyber crime photo 1.

March 11, 2015

By Stephanie Kent
Investigative Research Assistant

Social networking websites have not only revolutionized social connectedness, but they have generated a powerful new means of advertising and marketing for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Although it may sound like the ideal medium through which to connect with old friends or engage masses of new customers, social media may be the single thing that will cost you your identity, wealth, business and reputation. Like anything that appears ‘too good to be true,’ social media can have irreversible negative consequences if users do not take the appropriate precautions. The number of con-artists, cybercriminals, and other fraudulent actors who exploit online social networks for iniquitous purposes continues to increase rapidly.

In December, 2013, security experts discovered a cache of approximately 2 million pilfered passwords to popular social media websites. Hackers across the globe had stolen usernames, passwords and credentials through 326,000+ Facebook accounts; ~60,000 Google accounts; 59,000+ Yahoo accounts and ~22,000 Twitter accounts.¹ Today, more than 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised daily (that’s ~219 million jeopardized Facebook accounts a year)!²

According to the FBI, cybercriminals who exploit social networks can typically be divided into two tactical groups.³ The first employs computer savvy hackers who are well-practiced in writing and altering computer code to gain access or install undesired software on your device. The second group uses “social engineers” who exploit personal relations through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. These hackers use the World Wide Web to gather information about a person through his or her history of statuses, photos, comments, tweets, online interactions, and other personal information they’ve posted. With this abundance of intimate knowledge about the victim, social engineers know exactly how to assume the target’s identity and manipulate people into getting through all types of security walls. They frame their stories as to appear totally harmless and legitimate, and with the help of human naivety, they often succeed. Falling for this type of seemingly harmless social media scam could be extremely damaging not only for a personal victim, but also for the organization that employs that victim.

To avoid becoming an easy target of social media cyber crime, refer to the simple steps listed below.

How to Better Protect Yourself on Social Media:

1. Create a Strong Password for Every Account

Although hackers may seem like masterminds, nearly 16,000 of the compromised Facebook accounts mentioned above used the same simple password, ‘123456’! These users may as well have gone on vacation, left the house key on the doorstep, and put their passport, wallet, and birth certificate inside the door! Make your password at least 10 digits long, with a combination of various numbers, symbols and letters (include capitals and lower-case). Avoid using the same password for multiple websites because once your universal password is decrypted, every account you own is easily accessible to the hacker.

2. Change Your Facebook Settings to “Friends Only”

View your privacy settings on your Facebook account. Make sure your default privacy setting is not set to public (along with posts and photos you publish on your wall). If you have set it to “Custom,” be sure you are aware and comfortable with any “Networks” with which you’re sharing data.

3. Be VERY Wary of Who You Add as a Friend or Contact on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Many accounts are created under false pretenses in order to gain your information upon your acceptance of the friend invite. If the person inviting you to connect via social media has very few friends or connections, or has published limited information about him or herself, exercise caution! This is probably not someone you know. Even if the person shows one or two mutual friends, ask those friends of yours how they know this person before accepting the individual as your own friend. Remember, social engineers are very clever and will use whatever photos, info and aliases they can to access your profile publicly. Never add people to your social media that you do not surely know and trust with ALL of your posted information!

4. Avoid Posting Personal Information on All Social Media Venues

It is important to note that once something is posted to any social networking website, it is no longer private. Even when you enable the highest security settings on your accounts, your information can certainly be leaked on the Internet! It’s true that the “friends only” setting will help protect you, but the more information you post to social media, the more likely you are to become a target for hackers. The more info you share online, the easier it is for hackers to impersonate you and deceive your contacts into sharing their own information, downloading malware, or providing access to restricted sites, thus feeding the vicious cycle of cyber crime! Avoid posting your personal phone number, birthday, address and email on Facebook. Your Facebook contacts can always send Facebook messages to contact you privately, and if you are close enough to be Facebook “friends” they would most likely have your other personal info anyway.

5. Avoid Dropping Pins with Your Device’s GPS on Social Media

Allowing people to pinpoint exactly where you are in the world at a specific time is not the wisest idea when trying to stay safe from criminal activity (whether cyber or not)! You may as well post a sign on your front door saying “At the international airport, going to be in Europe for two weeks… make yourselves at home!” Just don’t do it. Either privately inform your friends about the upcoming trip, or wait until you have returned to post about it.

6. Password Protect All of Your Devices

Yes, folks, that means your Macs, your PCs, your tablets, your iPads, your iPhones, your Androids, your iPods, your Blackberrys, and every other device under the sun that connects to Wi-Fi! Not only password protect them, but get those creative juices flowing beyond ‘123456.’

7. Put a Google Alert on Your Name4

This is a very easy way to be aware of what’s being posted about you online. It takes under a minute to do. Go here: https://www.google.com/alerts and enter your name and variations of your name with quotation marks around it. Finished!

8. Log Out Of Your Online Accounts When You’re Finished Using Them

Not only does this help reduce the chances of being tracked as you surf the Web, it prevents the next person who uses that computer from loading one of your accounts and snooping. This is especially important when using a public computer. Remember, ‘x’ing out of a page does not mean you are logging out! People often forget this and suffer the horrible consequences of personal invasion.

9. Turn On 2-step Authentication in Gmail

One small step for a Gmail man, one giant leap for his Gmail security! 2-step authentication requires that you enter a code (that’s sent to your phone) each time you attempt to access your account from a new device. Therefore, even if the malicious type decodes your password, they won’t be able to sign into your account from an unauthorized device.

If you believe that either you or your organization has been victimized by cyber-criminal behavior, contact Jennings Smith Associates toll-free today at 866-629-3757 for a free consultation, or visit us online at www.jsainvestigations.com. All inquiries are strictly confidential.



Top 3 Cyber Crime Trends Expected in 2013

January 18th, 2013 | Cyber, Privacy, Private Investigator, Security | 0 Comments

Each year it seems that cyber crime is getting worse and worse. With all the amazing and astonishing hurdles that technology has helped us overcome, with every positive, there are usually multiple negatives that follow along behind.

Top 3 Cyber Crime Trends for 2013

One of those negatives is the ability of some highly knowledgeable individuals to hack banks, steal identities, and more using technology. Here are the top three cyber crime trends that are expected for 2013.

The Mobile Speedy Pay

There are many applications now available to consumers that allow for “easy” banking, payments, and more. Of course this sounds great to consumers as we are always looking for faster methods of doing things. However, with these speedy pay applications come the higher risk of someone getting ahold of your information and using it without your knowledge to purchase goods. The scariest aspect about these speedy payment applications is that they are the most dangerous when using them in busier areas such as airports. Someone who has the technological capability to get this information will have a field day at an airport.

Malicious Applications

Although mobile applications have been around for a while now, it’s taken a while for many hackers to figure out exactly how to hack into phones. However, some of done this very successfully, and we now expect others to learn the same process. The issue with this is that they don’t want to hack your phone to get access to your confidential information, they want to hack into your phone, get into your App Store (which has your credit card information), and purchase “Malicious Applications” where the money used to purchase them goes directly to them (the hacker) so it’s easy money in their pocket.

Mobile Malware

We all know how large the problem with malware is when dealing with PCs and laptops, so it was just a matter of time before there was a type of malware created to infect mobile devices. And apparently 2013 is that time. This is when things get pretty crazy. Criminals can steal data from someone’s phone, and almost hold it until the phone owner pays ransom to retrieve the information. Of course this would only happen if the criminal got a hold of some highly confidential information.

Not wanting to scare you, we thought we would also share with you a few times on how to protect yourself from allowing any criminals the opportunity to get into your phone. Install security onto your phone such as Norton’s Mobile security programs. Always change your passwords about once per month and make them difficult.

Hope you found this blog post helpful and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @JenningsSmith

3 Ways to Protect This Christmas Season

November 20th, 2012 | Cyber, Security | 0 Comments

With Christmas just around the corner now, many people out either out in their local shopping centers spending up a storm or at home shopping online. No matter what kind of shopping they are doing, they are at risk for credit card theft. So check out these three tips for shopping safely this holiday season.

Use Payment Other Than Debit

3 Ways to Protect This Christmas Season

When you purchase a product using your debit card, you are giving the store full access to your bank account. So to play it safe, you should be paying with either cash or credit card. You might think it’s unsafe or annoying to carry around a wad of cash to purchase Christmas presents, but it’s much safe than using your debit card directly.

In-store Credit Card Offers

These offers are literally everywhere nowadays! Most stores lure in consumers with up to 50% off when you sign up for our in-store credit card. However, these can also lead to a lot of trouble. When you fill out one of these forms, you are giving all of your personal information such as your full name, address, usually a SSN is required and then you hand back the form to the cashier and they just usually place it somewhere – for ANYONE to pick up. Be safe and avoid those “offers” altogether.

Don’t Give Out Information

Usually Christmas is a great time for stores to build up email lists, memberships, and credit card members because they tie all of these things into a deal or discount of some sort. However, it’s truly best to avoid all of these “deals”. Don’t give out all of your personal information, even giving out your email is dangerous because if they happen to send you an accidental email with malware, that will automatically be placed onto your computer when you open that email. So avoid those potential issues altogether and do not give out your personal information.

Hope you found this blog post useful! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @JenningsSmith.

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