Social Security: Social Media Phishing Attacks Are on the Rise, Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself

While phishing, or the practice of sending emails or making phone calls purporting to be from legitimate companies in an effort to get victims to reveal personal information is nothing new, fraudsters are increasingly turning to new channels to target victims. One such channel is social media.

Recently, a social media attacked carried out by Russian hackers was able to infiltrate the computer of a Pentagon official. And it didn’t take much for the hackers to find their way in; a simple link attached to a Twitter post advertising a vacation package was enough. Once the linked was clicked, the official’s computer was infected.

In November 2015, the State Department revealed that its 7,000 of its employees took the first step toward being compromised by clicking on a link that appeared in their social media feeds.

According to one report, social media phishing attacks increased 500% from beginning of 2016 to end of 2016. While that’s a scary statistic, the success rate of these types of attacks may be even more frightening.

Research published by the cybersecurity firm ZeroFOX found that 66% of spear phishing messages sent through social media sites were opened by their intended victims.

The reason for the increase in attacks on social media is rather simple. These attacks are targeting channels where users usually have a high-degree of trust. When you share something to your social network, or see a post from someone else, it’s unlikely that you screen the content for fraud potential.

With the number of attacks on the rise, and the vulnerability that social media channels presents making headlines, corporations and government agencies around the world are starting to realize the importance of educating and training staff on the dangers of social media fraud.

However, these attacks aren’t relegated to big organizations. Anyone who uses social media should be aware of the potential threats as well as the steps they can take to make it less likely that they will be hooked in a social media phishing attack.


To help, we’ve put together the following infographic:

The Perils of Omni-Channel and Social Media Marketing - A Philosopher's Look

A member of the Next Caller team, Zach Shaw holds a Philosophy degree from Princeton University with a certificate in Computer Science. Every so often, Zach shares his musings about the intersection of big data and technology with some age-old philosophical questions. 

 

In her recent book Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle explores the effects of our constant use of social media on our mobile devices.  Originally, the constant connection brought about by new technologies was seen as an extension of our personal identities.  However, as Turkle notes, there are many adverse effects from these information communication technologies (ICTs) - foremost the replacement of face-to-face communication by digital interaction.  People do not learn empathy through the use of social networks.  They learn how to get the most likes on their profiles.  Our self esteem is intimately linked with our popularity on such websites, and we'll do everything in our power to boost that popularity, including sacrificing an intimate conversation with a friend or family member.  Even when we are conversing face-to-face, our mobile devices make it possible for us to be 'alone together.'  We can be physically together with another person, but completely inattentive to them as a human being.  As a society this is a major development, and, in the eyes of Turkle, a major problem.  

 

Not lagging behind, the customer service space has adapted to such technologies.  We can tweet about our bad experience on an airline.  We can email the customer service department about our phone malfunctioning.  We can online chat with a representative about our order on Amazon.com.  Communication to address our concerns with a product or service has been extended by these ICTs; consequently, as customers, it is easier than ever to solve our problems.  Yet, when we really are frustrated we still resort to the phone.  

 

A customer service phone call is uniquely outside the grasp of distracting mobile technologies because both individuals on the call are focused on achieving the same goal: solving the customer's problem as quickly as possible.  You, the customer, want your concern addressed, and, until it is, you will give your undivided attention to the phone call.  Conversely, the representative will lose his or her job if not engaged.  So in this one case, the ability to have limitless distractions and data at your fingertips does not hinder the quality of your conversation.

 

Let's compare this to a typical conversation with a friend.  You both have several different goals.  You each want to improve your status on Facebook.  Maybe one of you wants some encouragement to work harder at your job from the conversation.  The other friend wants to talk about the latest gossip.  There is somewhat of a prisoner's dilemma here.  Because you both took the time to hang out, let's assume that you both enjoy hanging out more than going on Facebook.  Given that assumption, let's give the value of 1 happiness point to each of you for the action of going on Facebook, and the value of 5 for the other two activities of face-to-face conversation.  However, if you choose to go on Facebook, you are guaranteed 1 point whereas, if you choose to engage in the face-to-face conversation where you both are pursuing different goals, it is likely that one of you will not achieve your goal.

 

   This analysis assumes that you cannot have a conversation where both your and your friend’s goal - in the example provided, encouragement and gossip - can be accomplished simultaneously.  Although they are not mutually exclusive, with the developments of technology and our need for immediate gratification, a conversation achieving both goals and yielding a ‘5/5’ level of happiness is becoming increasingly rare.  Moreover, there is the possibility that neither person’s goal is accomplished by staying engaged in the conversation, yielding a ‘0/0’ level of happiness.  This possibility gives further impetus to go on Facebook .

This analysis assumes that you cannot have a conversation where both your and your friend’s goal - in the example provided, encouragement and gossip - can be accomplished simultaneously.  Although they are not mutually exclusive, with the developments of technology and our need for immediate gratification, a conversation achieving both goals and yielding a ‘5/5’ level of happiness is becoming increasingly rare.  Moreover, there is the possibility that neither person’s goal is accomplished by staying engaged in the conversation, yielding a ‘0/0’ level of happiness.  This possibility gives further impetus to go on Facebook.

Even if you are very risk-averse, you would probably choose the conversation at first - that's why you both are hanging out.  But if the conversation starts to veer off course of your individual goal to another topic (I assume in my model your friend's goal instead), it is more beneficial for you to stop paying attention to the conversation and to go on Facebook.  If there is a more comfortable, egotistical alternative to genuine empathy, we will take it.  Therein lies the dilemma of being 'alone together.'

 

Conversely, returning to customer service calls, the conversation is actually improved by recently developed ICTs.  Certain technologies allow representatives to access demographic information about their customers which these representatives can use to better meet their customers' needs.  With new innovations like omni-channel integration, representatives can specialize their knowledge to specific products or services, and thus better achieve the joint goal of any customer service conversation: addressing the customer's concern.  Instead of destroying the quality of these conversations, new technologies are enabling better communication in the customer service space.  

 

In spite of the stigma arguments like Turkle’s have started to propagate against ICTs, customer service providers and call center professionals need to take advantage of these new technologies in order to maintain customer loyalty.  The average person’s patience is dwindling because of the immediate gratification these technologies have brought to us.  As a result, customer service needs to be better than ever before, and these new technologies are the only way to meet consumers’ rising expectations.  Without adapting to this changing landscape, customers will go on Facebook if they aren’t satisfied within a couple minutes - and choose a competitor.

 

Interested in more of Zach's philosophical musings? Contact the author - zach@nextcaller.com.

Cost of Social Media

contributed by: Colleen Boyce

Gossip has existed as long as humans have.  It is simple, as people are curious, social creatures who learn from one another.  It makes sense that we share our problems, our friends’ problems, our friends’ friends’ problems, and so on.  We use this information to gain a better understanding of the world around us so that we can survive.  In that sense, gossip is a blessing.  

However, in the past, gossip would only spread so far.  It would stay isolated in the area of the incident or would become so outrageous that it turned into folk stories used to scare children into behaving.  Today, gossip, whether true or false, spreads to every corner of the earth because of advancements in technology, most notably social media.  

With one click of a button, information can be sent to the world and never taken back, which in most cases is not all that bad; it might even be funny.  On the other hand, that one little tweet or Facebook post can cost a company millions in damage control.  No matter how exceptional customer service may be at a company, it only takes one person slightly faltering to cause an explosion. Anyone working in a business that interacts with people knows how serious the damage can be.  

This drives at the question, was social media a blessing or a curse for big businesses?  With it came new opportunities to advertise, a new wealth of information on customers, and a portal for users to share their exciting experiences with a company.  Some will argue that outweighs the cost of one bad mistake, and maybe it does for companies that can afford to make a mistake.

Others are not so lucky, but there are ways to prevent such disasters.  The easiest and most common solution is to have your employees trained to adhere by the age old adage, “the customer is always right.”  Another way is to have an alert set so that when a customer “hashtags” or discusses a company/brand then they are notified and are able to defuse the situation quickly and fairly quietly.  A slightly different solution would be preventing the problem before it is too far under way.  In this case, people who have a high number of followers are routed to the front of the line in the IVR because, if they have a complaint, they could cause the company the most damage.  

However, we will never be able to stop someone who, rather than seek help when they are unhappy with a product, instead turns to the internet to take out their frustration.  In this instance the only solution here is the goal of any company: produce the best product possible for your customers.