Social engineering: social networks as gateways to cyber risks and threats

Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Tik-Tok,… we all know these social networks.  But are they safe?  The experts and consultants of MCG look into the matter and warn you. Cybersecurity threats are for real.

Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Tik-Tok,… we all know these social networks.  But are they safe?  The experts and consultants of MCG (Matias Consulting Group) look into the matter and warn you. The risks are numerous, and not only societal, ethical and psychological ones. Cybersecurity threats are for real. Decoding.

The Belgians love social networks: but the risk is never far away

First, some numbers to start this article. Rest assured, we will talk about cybersecurity, but let's begin with the use of social networks in Belgium. This data is serious and comes from the February 2022 report by We Are Social and Kepios.

What we can already say is that the Belgian is very crazy of digital communication on social networks. Let's take a closer look:

  •  79.3% of internet users in Belgium, aged 16 to 64, surf on Facebook
  •  72% for Facebook Messenger
  •  71.4% for WhatsApp
  •  56% for Instagram

To a lesser extent, Twitter generates 24% of traffic from Belgian users and LinkedIn, 23%.

Beyond the communication, societal and psychological aspects, MCG experts observe ans scrutinize this closely because, behind these surf volumes, there are risks and many threats.

Behind social networks, the risk is very present: phishing, trojan and identity theft

As we can see, most of us love to “consume”, and spend time on these social networks, at first sight without risk.  Well, this is far from reality.

Phishing, identity theft, trojan… this is a set of terms used in CyberSecurity. They all refer to an old technique: “social engineering”.

As Wikipedia specifies (Wkipedia which is not without risks either, behind a pseudo “officiality”) in its definition, social engineering takes place in the context of information security, a practice of psychological manipulation for fraudulent purposes. You have been warned.

Social engineering: from psychological manipulation to fraud

Another area we are dealing with that uses the same techniques is advertising, in the broad sense. Advertising is a paid way to generate traffic or attention with the aim of influencing a purchase. In exchange for a budget allocated to a medium, you are exposed to the “pressure” of a message: on TV, radio, digital, on social networks, etc.

Global advertising budgets could represent up to 750 billion dollars at the end of 2022. All media combined, digital and video (thanks or because of Tik-Tok) represent a good share of the pie (source Dentsu).

What is important in advertising is to work on the unconscious of human beings. In other words, behind the term “social engineering” hides a “psychological” approach to internet users.  Without forgetting that behind advertising, there is also the collection of data, sometimes sensitive and confidential.This is called Data Collecting.

Even if the use of psychological techniques to obtain something from one's enemy or adversary dates back to the era of time (cfr the Trojan War), today we must admit that our enemies (your competitors, the countries  enemies, cybercrime, etc.) have made the task easier. And new media, including social networks, have had a hand in this expansion.

Indeed, the Internet is full of information about everyone… and for some, much more than for others.

Show me your social network and I'll tell you who you are: your life exposed in stories, Tik-Tok and posts of all kinds

Nowadays, social networks are at their peak. We are not only connected to one network but to multiple social platforms. We join many communities in which we identify, and we “socialize”.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, each platform demonstrates ingenuity in offering more or less useful or futile functions to users. From the messaging aspects with WhatsApp, to the sometimes dubious creative filters of Tik-Tok.

Far be it from us, at MCG, to impugn intentions, but the fact is that the business model of all these platforms (Google, Meta, Tik-Tok, etc.) is based on the intensification of interactions with users and the information they share and collect.

The right reflex on social networks: protect your data and privacy

As our elders said: “to live happily, live hidden”.  What if the return to the elementary roots of social "parsimony" was back?  Digital detox. Unplug to find yourself back and protect yourself. Just like “slow food”, digital communication is also facing a new trend of “slow communication”. Show less, but impact the world better.

For some people, social networks are a real addiction, with the host of social and psychological problems that can result from it. Their lives suddenly become completely public and transparent, with their sometimes most diverse interests fully exposed (…and which perhaps should have remained confidential?).

Indirectly, they also put themselves and those around them at risk: by publishing too much confidential information, they can compromise their own physical and digital security (theft, usurpation, burglary, etc.).  And no, we don't live in a world full of Care Bears. Don't make it easy for scammers!

Social networks: in cybersec terms, the threat will clearly intensify

For our enemies, it therefore becomes easy to understand what we are interested in, what excites us, what worries us, what saddens us... in short, they can draw our "psychological profiles" without sitting in your doctor's chair.

The more you post about yourself, the more you expose your flaws.

If we take these elements into account, it becomes clear that the attacks using “social engineering” will only intensify because “human rationality” is an assumption that is increasingly questioned in intellectual spheres.

Faced with this observation, organizations will have to intensify “security awareness” type approaches, because ultimately, as they do not control upstream (the publication of information on social networks), they must try to limit the risks downstream. (cfr the attacks mentioned such as phishing).

MCG's experts and consultants keep a very vigilant eye on the file and will not fail to keep you informed of its progress!

Social engineering: social networks as gateways to cyber risks and threats

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