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Social media channels have substantially boosted executive visibility—and the visibility of their companies. However, the benefits of social media outreach haven’t come without a cost. These highly visible members of the C-suite, and their
organizations, have become targets for threat actors through these very social channels.
Cybercriminals always seek to breach executives’ organizations through various means, but social media gives them additional methods to impersonate executives and harm the organization, including launching phishing attacks to initiate ransomware
attacks or steal data and funds. Regardless of threat actors’ motives, experiencing a social media account security incident can cause significant damage to organizations, individuals and brand reputation.
Executive social media attacks specifically focus on the business and personal accounts of C-suite members who lead targeted organizations. By breaching executive social media accounts, threat actors can impersonate executives and use their accounts
to post damaging content, wreak havoc on a brand, or use their name and influence to gain inside access to confidential networks, data and finances.
To launch social media attacks, threat actors usually turn to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, which most executives typically use. Execs’ communication with clients and prospects allows easy access to personal, vendor and corporate information.
READ: How to Advance Your Phishing Program to Address Ransomware
Attackers seek to infiltrate the social media accounts of executives in a variety of ways. They typically will hit vulnerable devices, such as mobile or BYOD, but they also won’t hesitate to go more sophisticated by combining other social engineering
ploys and methods to get the access they need.
Recent examples of cybercriminals exploiting executives’ social media accounts include:
These are only a handful of recent attacks in the U.S., but social accounts everywhere are being continually breached. In many attacks, threat actors routinely impersonate executives and trick others into sharing sensitive financial data, transferring
large sums of money or disclosing login credentials.
Attackers use many different types of social engineering attacks, but will often launch phishing attacks after breaching an executive’s social media account.
Targeted phishing attacks directed at C-Suite members are referred to as spear-phishing or “whaling,” and they have become one of the most prominent forms of cyberattacks.
The top types of attack include:
READ: 10 Ways to Identify a Phishing Email
Avoid becoming a victim of a social media attack by learning how to recognize the indicators of a breach. Common signs of malicious attempts to hack social accounts include typos/bad grammar in messages, urgent demands for sensitive information, or unsolicited
documents or PDFs.
Follow these best practices to prevent an attack:
You can also protect yourself by not clicking on suspicious or unknown links, not opening attachments, turning off locators on platforms, restricting incoming private messages, selectively accepting connection requests and carefully vetting unknown senders.
As an executive or C-Suite member, you are automatically a high-profile target. Understanding how to recognize and avoid individual attacks is just the first step. Your security team and employees must be educated in the different types of attacks, and
your team should perform continuous training. Lastly, integrating physical protections, such as cybersecurity tools and compliance solutions that offer real-time threat detection and incident response go a long way to preventing large-scale damage.
Although reasonable efforts will be made to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the information contained in our blog posts, no liability can be accepted by IANS or our Faculty members for the results of any actions taken by individuals or firms
in connection with such information, opinions, or advice.
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