While it does a fine job of connecting users, social media is becoming a potential security threat today, according to network security company Fortinet.
It is not uncommon for users today to share links on social media platforms. Linking, and the subsequent clicking of these links, changes the Internet landscape as it enables malware to spread faster and easier as compared to sending malware via email.
For instance, hackers could get a malware into a user's computer by sending messages about popular topics to get more views and making downloads seem to originate from legitimate sources such as fake updates for Flash. Once the malware is downloaded, it will disable the computer's antivirus and add malicious extensions to the browser. The user will then be directed to compromised websites where hackers can steal his user credentials. After which, the hackers can hijack the user's social media accounts to continue propagating the malware by disguising it as a legitimate link or message on the user's social media page.
Keeping yourself safe
"Users can greatly reduce the chances of getting infected by social media malware by practising safe surfing," said Eric Chan, regional technical director of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong at Fortinet. He shared tips on how to do so:
- Besides having a secure password which involves having a mix of letters, numbers and special characters, every account should be accompanied with a unique password. Passwords should also never be shared (especially across and network) and should be changed frequently.
- Ensure that the anti-virus and anti-malware programmes running on your computer are kept updated. Computers should be scanned for viruses and malware on a regular basis too.
- Before clicking on any links, especially those posted from high profile accounts such as celebrities, check if the URL matches where you're supposed to go to. For links that uses a short URL, hover over it with your mouse to see the address in full before clicking it.
- Alert your contacts if you suspect that their account has been compromised and ensure they know what to do to regain control of their account.
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