Social media environment is characterized by sites such as social networks, Internet forums, micro-blogging, Wikis, podcasts, social bookmarking, rating, photographs or pictures, Weblog, and videos. These social networks have revolutionized social environment and social connectivity. Individual, groups, and organizations have gained a lot from this revolution. Companies have expanded their dominance and even gained a better market position because of making good use of social networks. However, social environment has exposed individuals, groups, organization as well as governments to a lot of risks. Criminals, con artists, and some other malicious actors have exploited this environment for nefarious objectives. Therefore, the new social environment has exposed people as well as government to several risks (Tufekci, 22).
Federal Bureau of Investigation explains that several malicious actors have taken advantage of the social environment to threaten individuals and government agencies using two main tactics. First, they have made use of computer savvy to hack into individual, as well as government accounts, with anterior motives. Computer hackers can install malicious software in the accounts they hack and carry out their criminal activities. The most targeted accounts for these crime stars are government intelligence accounts as well as company accounts. Second, they have made use of social or human hackers. These are individuals specialised in making wrong malicious use of personal connections via social networks. Social hackers or otherwise called social engineers have successfully manipulated several individuals either in writing, over the phone, or in person.
Generally, social manipulators have understood that current human beings are extremely weak links as far as cyber security is concerned. They have taken advantage of this weakness and tricked individuals into revealing their security walls. This malicious movement seems so sincere to those tricked because the manipulators make their actions look remarkably legitimate and harmless. Indeed falling victim of a computer hacker or an online scam is extremely damaging (Tufekci, 24).
Federal Bureau of Investigation warns that the way people conduct business or communicate using social network is highly risky. Since social sites are networked and internet based, they put users at risks because a majority of them has unusually low literacy in networking and internet knowledge. Social network users do not understand or sometimes forget that once information is posted in any social network no matter how private it might appear it is no longer secure or private. Even when the user is using a complex access security code setting, the website they use or friends can leak the information. This implies that the more a person posts private information in social networks, the more he or she becomes vulnerable.
Personal information people share in social sites can be manipulated and used to carry out an attack to the person or his or her close associates. This implies that the more information people share the more their chances of being impersonated. In addition to this, the same information shared can be used to trick their close associates into sharing private data, downloading malware, or give access to restricted contacts. Hackers, Predators, foreign state actors, and business competitors troll in social sites searching for information or individuals they target to exploit (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Social network users should understand that computer criminals can make use of data gleaned to design customized attacks, which do not necessarily come through the social networks from the networks (Tufekci, 23).
According to Acquisti (2), social network criminals use several methods to engineer their malice. They include baiting; click jacking, cross-site scripting, doxing, elicitation, pharming, phishing, scams, and spoofing. In baiting, a social network user is given electronic media such a USB drive that is preloaded with certain software called malware (Federal Bureau of Investigation). In so doing, the crime stars hope that the targeted person will make use of the device, which will help them hack. Click-jacking is a technique that hides hyperlinks beneath genuine clickable commands, which when, clicked, makes the user perform some actions unknowingly. There are various of such techniques including downloading malware or sending private identities to malicious sites.
In cross-site scripting, computer criminals inject malicious codes into a trusted social site or a benign. Some of this code are permanent and can infect any storage or portable device connected to the infected computer. Doxing is software designed to publicize private identities including birth, addresses, full names, and pictures. Social network users should be particularly careful, therefore, with the personal information they share on the internet (Federal Bureau of Investigation).
Acquisti (2) explains that elicitation is a strategy of communication between two individuals to get information about the people conversing. To prevent this, social network users should understand all forms of elicitation. Pharming is a secrete way of redirecting social network users from genuine websites to deceitful ones with an aim of getting confidential information. Phishing, on the other hand, is an email that appears to have come from a genuine site or person, but in reality, it is from malicious sites. These emails contain files or links with a malware. Phishing does not target any individual or government agency but snags victims randomly and spear phishing targets specific individuals or organizations (Federal Bureau of Investigation).
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To some up the whole discussion, there are many challenges that come with the use of social networks. The discussed risks are not exhaustive since people develop new ways to manipulate social sites’ users on a daily basis. There are many risks, and it is necessary that social network users take proper measures to evade them to avoid harsh consequences. These dangers may not be stopped soon because hackers always come up with new techniques to counter the measures by intelligence agencies to curb criminal acts.