12 social media threats to watch for in 2023
August 22, 2022
From TikTok and Instagram to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and everything in between, there is no shortage of social media platforms for us to choose from nowadays — and the same is true for cybercriminals looking to deploy their next attack.
That’s why the time is now to familiarize yourself with the most common social media threats today, including:
- Social engineering
- Data breaches
- Affiliate scams
- Fake giveaways
- Fake followers
- Identity theft
Use this guide to overview each, as well as points for how to safeguard your personal information and identity online.
Now, let’s do as we do on social media. Let’s get scrolling!
Social engineering describes any cyberattack a hacker may use to trick you into compromising your personal information. This could be in the form of a phishing email sent to your inbox or a smishing text sent to your iPhone or Android.
The key to protecting yourself is never giving out sensitive data to strangers over the phone or via email and/or text. You can never be 100% positive the person on the other end is telling the truth.
Phishing on social media occurs when a cybercriminal sends you an email pretending to be a reputable social media platform. The message may alert you of an “account issue” that you need to resolve immediately and provide a specific link to follow.
These links often lead to compromised or fake websites infected with spyware that can track everything you type. The cyberthief can then record the login credentials you entered to try and hack into your other online accounts.
You can look at malware as one of the more concerning threats on social media because it’s often the vehicle hackers use to deliver their cyberattacks. From viruses and worms to adware, spyware, and trojans, there are many different types of malware a hacker could use to break into one of your social media accounts.
Always be careful about what links you click and what files you open and download. Cybercriminals have sneaky ways of getting malicious programs onto vulnerable devices.
Sure, it's up to social platforms to properly protect user data, but it’s also up to you to ensure you don’t upload information you wouldn't want exposed. A good rule of thumb is to never include personal emails, phone numbers, or addresses in your profile bio.
Clickjacking is an advanced social media threat and hacking technique. And though there’s a lot of coding involved for the social media hacker, it essentially does what the name says — hijacking a click.
Clickjacking works by redirecting a click or “like” you make on a social media page to hit a different button. Hackers on social media can automate a hidden button on a page to automatically share a post on your profile or install a drive-by download onto your device.
Affiliate scams allow social media hackers to make more money. They do this by selling stolen credentials to third-party companies looking to bring more traffic to their websites.
A hacker typically creates and posts a fake ad on Facebook or Instagram including an infected link. Once clicked, it may take you to a spoofed website asking for personal emails, addresses, or phone numbers to get you registered for their promotion. You’ll learn that there is no real prize or promotion only after they record your information and stop following up with you.
Fake giveaways are similar to affiliate scams, but allow hackers to pay themselves instead of waiting on a middleman. They may simply impersonate a major brand or company themselves and post fake competitions or prizes to lure people to an infected website.
Once you’re on their site, they may try to use malware to collect your banking information, emails, and other forms of personal data to exploit you further.
Catfishing is one of the newest scams to watch out for. It involves creating a fake online profile with the intention of tricking people into believing you’re someone you’re not. And though many people may think they are too smart to be fooled, victims lost more than $1.3 billion to romance scams like catfishing over the past five years.
A catfisher or romance scammer may ask you to transfer them money, share usernames and passwords, and make other suspicious requests before meeting you in person. And when that time does come, they usually flake last minute for an unexplained reason.
The world of social media turned the number of followers you have into a kind of social status you can be proud of. However, the higher these numbers rise, the more you’re at risk of gaining fake followers.
These are fake profiles sometimes created by hackers to deliver phishing emails to their targets on social media. They can use the infected links attached to steal and/or sell your personal data on the dark web.
Cyberbullying is an unfortunate side effect of social media’s open nature. People sometimes take advantage of the anonymity behind their accounts and leave hateful and hurtful comments on other people’s posts.
It’s true that some people are better at brushing things off than others. However, persistent cyberbullying could have long-term effects on a person's self-esteem and confidence.
Cyberstalking takes cyberbullying to new heights. This is when someone uses DMs, emails, or other electronic methods to scare, harass, or threaten someone else with physical harm.
As mentioned, this can take many forms, but if you feel you are getting constant unwanted attention online from a person or company, you're probably dealing with a cyberstalker.
Social media can put you at risk of identity theft if you aren’t careful about sharing personal identifiable information (PII) on your profiles. Hackers looking to steal identities will look at profile bios and account details for anything they can get their hands on.
They can then gather information to mimic your identity or create a completely new identity using information from multiple people. The next thing you know, you could be facing banking and credit card fraud.
8 ways to prevent social media hacking
Social media threats often occur when online users reveal too much personal information on different social media platforms. Hackers can gather this data to steal identities, banking credentials, and other kinds of personal data for nefarious purposes.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to avoid being a victim of social media hacking online, including:
- Never share PII on social media posts or profile bios.
- Change passwords regularly to avoid account takeovers.
- Set accounts to private to control who can see your account details.
- Use a VPN to help avoid location tracking.
- Avoid accepting unknown friend requests from strangers.
- Beware of suspicious links from fake giveaways and affiliate scams.
- Dodge public Wi-Fi when surfing social media sites.
- Download antivirus software for added security.
When it comes to facing off against today’s biggest social media threats, remember that you’re the one holding the power. You alone control what goes online and who can see it. Use what you learned from our list of social media threats and the protection pointers to improve your internet safety.
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