Why Hackers Are Paying Close Attention To Your Social Media Activity

In this day in age, social media has become an important part of our everyday life. From keeping up with family and friends to chronicling snapshots and selfies, everyone has a large cyber footprint. But could all of this social media activity be putting you in danger?

We sat down with Shaun Murphy, one of the nations leading communication security experts and founder of Private Giant. He has devoted his life’s work into making technology more secure for the users. With years of experience, he has seen technology and hacking transform into what it is today.

“I started out way back in the days of deregulated pay phones where, oddly enough, telecommunications and microprocessors were first mixed together so businesses could completely own and operate their own pay phones. That freedom came with problems, however, called phreaking where people would attempt to get free calls, game the system, etc,” Murphy explains. “It seems like a lifetime ago but protecting against those ‘hacks’ really did set the stage for me and the technology we see today, heck Steve Jobs and Woz were/are famous for that!”

Since witness the drastic changes, he has helped keep commercial and government interests safe, but he says the everyday person is the one who needs to remain vigilant about their technology privacy.

“I’ve developed and deployed commercial and government communication systems where there’s such a great push and investment for privacy and security for obvious reasons while the rest of us are hung out to dry as the tech giants (facebook, google, and such) acquire, accumulate, and correlate information about us even if we never consented…. and they are worth billions, from our data!”

Murphy also explained about how soon the consumer will be the main prey for these hackers. There will come a time when they will come after the easier victims, us.

“Recently, an international hacking ring stole as much as $1 billion dollars from more than
100 banks in 30 countries in one of the largest banking breaches in history. In this
instance, hackers used phishing schemes targeted at bank employees to gather
information on bank operations and used it to create fake accounts then transfer the stolen
funds. While banks were targeted in this massive attack, cyber criminals will likely not be abandoning attacks on average consumers anytime soon.”

[Photo credit: cultofmac.com]
[Photo credit: cultofmac.com]

This need for protection for the common man inspired Murphy’s soon-to-launch business venture, PrivateGiant.

“Everyone should have free and social communication without being sold/traded/exploited as a product. At our core is customer empathy, we know people want to be social so we have done a ton of research on privacy and how people communicate and we’re educating people on what pitfalls are out there and how to protect themselves while actively developing technical solutions for seamless and transparent privacy and security solutions that enhance current social communication channels.”

As social media becomes a large part of everyday life, there has been an inevitable rise in security concerns. Every part of our life is somehow represented online and it seems to be worth real money.

“Simply put… our information and data are valuable and any entities will get it in any way possible. This could be as malicious as a high profile hack to as simple as offering a ‘free’ social media service or app that scrapes and sells as much data as it can get. A decade ago, the golden standard for ID theft was SSN and mother’s maiden name… now it’s username and passwords, the name of your best friend in high school, your first pet’s name, etc. How much of our identity these days is not online in some way? If your online identity is stolen, real money is at stake, your tax return might have been submitted by someone 1000 miles away, your email account might get locked out (which, in turn, will give that entity access to all of your online accounts thanks to “reset my password” features)… which is worse? Most insulting thing is all of this damage is caused when your info is sold for $6 on the dark web.”

While the fact that this sensitive information can be easily stolen and sold is extemely insulting, Murphy says there is some things people can look out for to protect themselves.

Check with your financial institution before giving out any information.

“So called Phishing scams are still big money makers for criminals. Get a phone call, email, tweet from your financial institution to update your information? Don’t answer, hang up, or ignore the message and call your financial institution right away on their official number.”

Be cautious about trusting those free apps.

“New mobile apps and services that are free and want you to give them your banking credentials? Well I have something to say about that!”

“Also, if you see a new app or service that is completely free, ask yourself why is it free? Running these things takes a great deal of resources so where are they getting your money? Are you ok being the product they will sell to advertisers or other “3rd parties”?”

With the variety of ways information can get hacked, how can you tell if you have become a victim?

“First thing is to keep a close eye your financial accounts. These are the first indicator that your information has been compromised as lower tier criminals will quickly attempt to draw money out of your accounts. A little late this year, but tax return fraud is still a thing… it’s not enough to file before a criminal does, you need to create an account with the IRS now to protect yourself next year!”

After targeting your financial accounts, a hacker may try to access any online accounts you may have.

“Email accounts (gmail, hotmail, yahoo) are juicy targets because they are the main vector to access other online sites… click the I forgot my password link and they magically email you (or the bad entity) a method to change it!”

Murphy says even your pictures could be used against your will.

“Your private photos could be on a billboard in south Korea and you’d never know. An oldie but a goodie is to “google yourself” occasionally to see what pops up.”


What happens if you discover you have been hacked?

Murphy suggests visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s page on identity theft.

After familarizing yourself with these guidelines, Murphy suggests getting your financial interests in order.

“Checkings, savings, retirement, creditcards, paypal, apple pay… get those all back under control and dispute any unknown charges. You may need a police report for some of these so get that done immediately!”

After you have made sure your money is safe, Murphy says then you should take care of any other comprised online account.

Even once you have address the problem, Murphy explains that the leaked information doesn’t just diappear.

“You will need to watch yourself constantly after a breach. We, as a community, need to demand better protections for our information and harsher punishments for entities that leak or lose our information.”

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