Procurement · 3 May 2017

The social media hackers causing significant damage to small businesses

cyber security
Enabling two-factor authentication on all social media accounts can act as a strong security booster

A fifth of small UK business owners have had their Facebook or Twitter account breached in the last three years, according to new research, as social media hackers become a growing security threat for smaller firms.

The survey, from business law firm Slater Gordon, found over half of affected owners cited “significant” damage to their company because of the security breach to their social media accounts.

Almost two-thirds of social media hackers demanded a cash ransom in return for handing back control of the account. Other business owners experienced a significant loss of data as well as giving access to sensitive customer information, threatening the reputation of the company.

The findings also revealed a lack of social media security within small firms. Some 16 per cent of owners didn’t know how to access the company’s accounts, while a quarter admitted to being locked out after the staff member holding passwords left the company or went on holiday.

Social media accounts are accessed so frequently – and on numerous devices – and the findings indicated a new era in cyber security, with many owners failing to take control of sensitive data.

Despite past experiences of social media hackers, owners continued to be unprepared for a security breach. Almost half of those affected failed to respond to an attack by reviewing internal processes.

Commenting on the worrying rise of social media hackers, Steve Kuncewicz, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said a social media presence could be an asset for a company, but also its “greatest vulnerability”.

“It can take years to build up a following, but a few seconds to destroy it with a careless tweet or post or not being able to respond quickly enough to negative comments and feedback or a hack,” he said in a statement.

“It is concerning that so many business leaders don’t know the login details to their firm’s accounts to prevent this from happening.”

A quarter of small business owners admitted trusting younger employees to manage all social media activity.

Kuncewicz suggested owners handing down the keys to social media to junior staff on the assumption they are more equipped to manage the digital side of the business are making a “serious mistake”.

“Implementing a process to sign off content, manage who has access to accounts and react if you suffer a social media incident is vital in this day and age.”

One in four managers even admitted to never checking what their firm was posting on social media.

Fighting social media hackers

Kuncewicz outlined a number of preventative measures to keep social media hackers at bay. He advised business owners to set up login notifications each time the company account is accessed, as well as changing passwords on a regular basis with a password manager.

Kuncewicz also warned to be aware of suspicious apps that may have been planted by a hacker onto a computer, and suggested downloading antivirus software for computers and phones with access to social media accounts.

Find out more about how the cyber security landscape looks in 2017

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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