Alvin Mills

Alvin Mills
VP of Information, Technology & Security

How can something so good be so bad?

The usage of social media around the world continues to increase and is, without a doubt, one of the most popular online activities in which users engage.”

Several years ago, way before Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and all the other social media sites existed, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of high school students on the dangers of social media and smart phones. At the time, Myspace had just become popular with teenagers and parents struggled with the question, “Is my child responsible enough to have a cell phone?” 

I remember having the discussion, or better debate, with my own children. The funny part of this story is, I was expecting to go to the school and present to maybe a classroom of students. When I got there, it was an auditorium full of more than 1,000 students. It was brutal and they were by far my toughest audience. 

My first slide referenced the dangers of social media, and I received quite a few boos, as you can expect. But over the course of the presentation, as I got into topics like protecting your information and the longevity of what you post on the internet, the students became more receptive. By the end of my presentation, I got a few questions from very concerned students. It was a good day.

The following week, I was asked to present the same topic at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. It was a completely different audience, and most of my time was spent on explaining what social media was. The questions were very different, but it turned out to be a good day as well. 

What about now?

Quite a few of the same risks exist today, along with a whole host of others. The biggest difference is the size of the audience. The usage of social media around the world continues to increase and is, without a doubt, one of the most popular online activities in which users engage. From 2019, the statistics show there are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide, which equates to 45% of the current population. Some other stats:

  • Facebook is the most popular social media platform (2/3 of U.S. adults).
  • 90.4% of millennials, 77.5% of Gen Xers and 48.2% of baby boomers are active social media users.
  • Users spend an average of three hours per day on social networks and messaging.
  • 73% of marketers believe that social media marketing has been very effective for their business.
  • 54% of social browsers use social media to research products.
  • 91% of social media users access social channels via mobile devices.

Social media has changed the ways we live our lives — from the way we get our news to the way we interact with our family, friends and peers. It’s everywhere, it’s unavoidable, it’s powerful and it’s here to stay.

Some cyber risks with social media

  1. Providing information that compromises your identityEveryone leaves a trail of information whenever they reveal something about themselves online. Hackers and identity thieves can put the pieces together to find out more about you than you ever intended. Dates of birth, where you were born, where you attended college, etc., are used by the threat actors to reset passwords, apply for credit and do many malicious things. It can be even worse with businesses. Once this information has been compromised, businesses may need to take emergency action to prevent cyber-attacks. Be careful about what you share in your profile and posts.
  2. Corrupting your other passwordsIf you provide too much information on your profiles, hackers can use it to guess your password. Hackers can then use your password to access your bank accounts and other online accounts. They understand that most users use the same password for everything. 3. Links to malwareIt’s been a growing problem and will continue. Rogue applications are commonly used to steal financial data. According to a Kaspersky Security Bulletin from a few years back, there were more than 2 million attempts to steal bank information. I’m guessing this has probably easily doubled in scope, if not tripled, since that was published. 

These are just a few of the risks with social media and hopefully it’s not the first time you’ve heard about them. The political fallout is just beginning and that is certainly a whole different discussion. Now we’re dealing with the censorship issues and how Big Tech is using the data that we’re posting on social media.

More to come …