What executives should know before sharing on social media

Photo by Sean Gallup / Getty Images.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of the 9.2 million short-term resident departures from Australia last year, ‘business’ was the third most frequently cited reason for travel.

In amongst the planning, meetings and the hustle between airports and hotel rooms, executives may find some solace in logging onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep their social networks updated. Unfortunately, while your followers are listening, cybercriminals are as well.

Executive social media accounts are the first places many malicious attackers go when gathering intelligence for one of the fastest growing cyber threat vectors – business email compromise (BEC). Simply put, BEC takes place when an attacker pretends to be an executive/person of authority and sends a realistic-looking email to a colleague requesting a large wire transfer or sensitive details like intellectual property (IP) or HR/payroll information.

The FBI recently warned that imposter emails increased by 270% last year and worldwide it jumped a staggering 1,300 per cent since 2015, equaling $3.1B US in identified exposed loss. Top executives have also lost their jobs due to significant financial losses associated with imposter emails.

With that in mind, here are three things you should do when using social media while traveling.

Avoid checking-in

Photo: Getty Images.

If you are in a senior executive at your organisation, do not risk checking-in on any social media channels (or enabling location on your posts), whether that be at the airport, a business district or your hotel. You’re essentially letting the public know that you’re out of the office. That absence gives the malicious attacker the opportunity to fraudulently email your team and request a wire transfer. For example, “Hi John – as you know I’m away for a few weeks in Hong Kong and am mostly uncontactable – can you URGENTLY wire $100,000 to the below account by COB today before my important meeting at 4pm.”

Ensure your status updates are private

If you are going to advertise your business travels and movements online (like sharing photos of a delicious meal at an airport or your selfie at an iconic city landmark), ensure to share updates solely with your Facebook Friends and LinkedIn Connections. Do not cast the net wider than family, friends and close business acquaintances. As a general side point here, always be careful about who you accept as connections on your social media accounts. For example, Facebook cloning is a recent trend affecting users as it involves attackers sending friend requests out from convincing fake profile accounts.

Manually approve online tags

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.

There is an option on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to approve statuses, photos and video tags prior to publishing content on your page and to your network of friends. By turning this option on, you’ll reduce the chance of attackers, who are actively monitoring the movements of you, your colleagues, and your partner, from automatically discovering more information about your business travels.

Following these three rules will help keep your activities sheltered from cybercriminals and reduce the likelihood that your business will fall victim to a BEC attack. In addition, be sure to remind your staff of the proper procedures for authorising wire transfers or sending sensitive content, especially while you are traveling.

For more tips on how to avoid BEC attacks, you can visit Proofpoint.

Tim Bentley is the ANZ managing director of Proofpoint. Proofpoint provides SaaS and on-premises solutions for inbound email security, outbound data loss prevention, privacy protection, email encryption, electronic discovery and email archiving.

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