When it comes to secure messaging, there are traditionally a few names that come to mind: Telegram, Whatsapp, Signal, etc. These apps have built a reputation around strong encryption, which they market heavily to consumers in the form of “secure messaging.” Millions of users for their part trust these apps to ensure that their communication doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
However, with growing privacy concerns stemming from government spying overreach and ever-more sophisticated hackers, and recent well-publicized breaches, consumers are taking a hard look at the security of their preferred messaging apps. Even the most widely well-regarded secure apps are now being looked at to see whether there aren’t previously unknown vulnerabilities.
Security Breach in the News
The news of a massive Whatsapp hack that broke last month has raised serious concerns over the actual security of messaging apps. While Whatsapp was quick to identify and react to the threat, releasing an update that addresses the vulnerability, an as yet unknown number of its estimated 1.5 billion global users were affected.
The threat in the case of Whatsapp didn’t stem from someone cracking its encryption, a feature that remains solid, but rather through application development: a vulnerability in the app allowed malware to be introduced. This highlights one of the main challenges to messaging apps that market themselves as secure- not only securing messages from prying eyes through encryption, but also developing an overall secure app.
News such as this breach acts to remind users of the potential dangers of any messaging app. In the current short news cycle, it’s easy to fall into complacency, until the next story comes along and reminds users of the very real cybersecurity threats that exist. In short, if what is considered by many to be one of the most secure apps can be so vulnerable, then are any messaging apps actually safe?
The Main Challenge to Secure Messaging
The Whatsapp news certainly demonstrates that even the most secure apps aren’t perfect, and that users should never have complete trust in any service. While an encrypted messaging app is still users best bet for secure communication, it’s important to be aware of the potential vulnerabilities every app comes with.
As Whatsapp demonstrated, threats to secure messaging apps mainly come not from breaking the apps’ encryption, but rather finding backdoors into the app itself. In other words, the threat to secure messaging apps most often stems from the constant updates and changes that services make to their products.
The fact that most apps are constantly updated is a double-edged sword. On the one hand updates provide improvements to the service and address issues as they arise, but on the other hand updates also could increase the number of vulnerabilities. This means that app developers have a large responsibility to ensure that any changes to the app are secure.
What Can Users Do?
While there is certainly cause for alarm whenever any breach on the scale of the Whatsapp hack in May happens, it’s important to put things into perspective. It’s all too easy to panic and vow to delete all messaging apps, social media accounts, etc., but for most people, this is an unrealistic and counterproductive approach.
So what can users do in order to stay safe? First and foremost, ensure that apps are updated regularly. Even though, as mentioned, updates could present vulnerabilities, they are also crucial to addressing threats. Luckily most breaches are detected relatively quickly (although unfortunately not quickly enough to prevent serious damage) and services are quick to respond with security updates.
Staying abreast of the latest cybersecurity news of their preferred service can also help users react quickly when necessary. Unfortunately for users, however, the majority of the responsibility for securing messaging apps lies with the developers themselves.
There is little users can do apart from making an informed choice, and staying on top of any security updates to apps and operating systems. Users should also exercise a healthy amount of skepticism for any app that claims to be invulnerable, because it might turn out to not be all it’s cracked up to be.
I`m a digital marketing and tech enthusiast, specializing in helping companies` success. Besides my passion for digital marketing, I`m an avid fan of football and love to dance.
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We often hear domain reputation as something that involves email marketing, but did you know that it can also impact network security?
In fact, there are domain reputation APIs available today that allow users to evaluate the reputation of a domain or IPv4 address based on several security data sources. These programs go through numerous parameters to come up with an overall score for the target. This capability lets companies analyze the properties of a website or IP address and gauge its risk level to help them make informed decisions moving forward.
To better understand what domain reputation software do, let’s first take a look at the parameters they examine.
Understanding Domain Reputation Scoring
A domain reputation API can acquire a score on an entity by assessing items such as:
- Domain SSL certificate. Having an SSL certificate is a good thing but it doesn’t always guarantee trustworthiness. This tool checks if the domain’s SSL certificate was issued by a reputable organization. Other SSL details that are examined include the validity period of the certificates and several other vulnerabilities.
- Website analysis: This takes into account how risky a website is using factors such as certain file extensions capable of executing code, host configuration problems, insufficient CMS protection, and more.
- Domain WHOIS record: Domain reputation protocols monitor WHOIS data feeds to identify possible anomalies such as suspicious registration dates, host location in a known high-risk country, and the like.
- Mail server: A domain reputation API also checks if a domain or an IP address has been blacklisted in relation to spamming or other malicious email-related activities. Its mail server feeds ensure that companies follow best practices specified for SPF and DMARC record configurations, response time, and reverse IP address matches.
- Malware detection: A domain reputation API can collect the latest details from malware databases to see if a given domain has been flagged in any of them. Some programs come with their own security intelligence to provide users with more exhaustive malware coverage.
- IP resolution: The tool also checks data feeds related to main infrastructure servers, other domains within the same IP block, and other connected domains. This lets users know where the host server is located.
Some Use Cases for Domain Reputation
It’s possible to check each feed in a domain reputation API individually to know if a domain or an IP address is dangerous or has exploitable vulnerabilities. However, going with a tool that can analyze all these feeds and come up with an overall score is simpler and more convenient.
A reliable domain reputation API can be used for many practical applications including:
- Enterprise security: In a digital world where a single data breach can spell the end of a company, stringent protocols and automated systems are needed to help monitor data traffic and maintain overall security. An API that can assess the reputation of any given domain or IP address and can be integrated with existing systems will enhance its overall protection from external threats.
- E-commerce safety: Many e-commerce systems today allow the conduct of transactions from one domain to another automatically. Using a piece of software that can evaluate the security of any website despite jumping domains before interacting with them can prevent mishaps and losses related to cybercrime.
A domain reputation API is capable of examining a wide range of feeds to come up with a safety score for a certain domain or IP address. This can range from 0 (low-risk) to 100 (high-risk or definitely malicious). Checking the reputation of a domain allows users to identify online entities that are potentially harmful so they can avoid accessing these.
Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) — a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cyber-security companies. TIP is part of the Whois API Inc. family which is a trusted intelligence vendor by over 50,000 clients.
Smart Toys Are Vulnerable: Hackers Can Spy on Parents and Talk to Children – Tips on How to Reduce the Risks of Connected Toys
Any internet-connected toys that have cameras, microphones, or location tracking may put children’s or parents’ privacy and safety at risk. That could be a talking teddy-bear, a smart car, or a tablet designed especially for kids. With companies pushing new toys into the market, security safeguards may go overlooked.
“Parents should be aware of what they are bringing home to their children. Once you connect anything to the internet, it may potentially be exposed to cybercriminals. Once they are in, hackers can use the toy’s microphone or camera to hear and see whatever the toy ‘sees’ and ‘hears.’ In some cases, some shady guys from the internet can even talk to children,” explains Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “The problem of the vulnerability of connected toys isn’t new, but it’s snowballing, as more and more smart toys reach the market every year.”
Lately, expert warnings about the vulnerabilities and threats of smart toys are becoming more common. Just last month, a security flaw was found in the TicTocTrack smartwatch for kids in Australia. This flaw allowed hackers to track children, eavesdrop on them, and even call them. Interestingly, the company behind the GPS smartwatch was backed by one of the Australian regional governments.
And this case is not an exception. Security failures were discovered in such well known and advertised toys as Furby Connect, CloudPets, i-Que Intelligent Robot, and Toy-Fi Teddy.
Official state institutions in various countries have even banned some smart toys. For example, in 2017, Germany’s Federal Network Agency banned ‘My Friend Cayla’ dolls and allowed retailers to sell them only if they disengaged its ability to connect to the internet. The Norwegian Consumer Council gave similar evaluation regarding this toy.
However, the largest known breach that targeted sensitive information about children happened in 2015. A cyber attack on the digital toymaker VTech Holdings exposed the data of over 6.4 million people, mostly children. The hacked data included names, genders, and dates of birth.
Parents can never be too careful when it comes to protecting their child. There are a few basic rules from NordVPN’s digital privacy expert to follow when choosing a smart toy for a kid:
Don’t give away your information. Some toys and games require registration for full playing experience or to provide updates. When registering, be careful about the information you hand over. The developers need your email to let you know about updates, but other information is mostly unnecessary. If, for example, it requires your kid’s birthday, you can always lie a bit.
Use only secure Wi-Fi. Before connecting the smart toy to a Wi-Fi network, make sure it is secure and has a strong password. Connecting such gadgets to a public Wi-Fi network is not advised, as those are easily hackable. By the way, set a password on the toy as well, if it allows that.
Check the chats. Some smart toys allow kids to chat with other children playing with the same toy or game. Be sure to explain to your kid what personal information is and why they can’t share it. From time to time, check the messages to make sure your children are not talking to strangers pretending to be kids. Reputable manufacturers will offer ways for parents to review the stored information.
Power it off when not used. It is advised to power off the smart toy when not used so that it stops collecting data. If the item has a microphone, throw it in a drawer or chest, where it’s harder to record conversations. And toys with a camera can be covered or placed facing a wall.
Report the breaches. If you noticed something unusual or a toy was compromised by a hacker, be a good citizen and always file a complaint to the state authorities. It might not help you, but it will make the internet a safer place for everyone and will press the manufacturer to stop overlooking security safeguards.
NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider that is more security oriented than most VPN services. It aims to become the world’s easiest-to-use VPN with a strong focus on user experience. NordVPN offers double VPN encryption, malware blocking and Onion Over VPN. It apps provide a unique algorithm, allowing to automatically connect to the fastest server. The product is very user-friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 4,500 servers worldwide and is P2P friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is zero log policy. For more information: nordvpn.com.
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The Web is a dangerous place. It’s a fact. But it only becomes deadly when we cannot identify the possible sources of attacks and, consequently, are not prepared when they happen.
You see, each year bad actors get more creative assuming fake identities and setting up networks of new domains that pop up and vanish, sometimes in a matter of hours. This means that cybersecurity professionals face a daunting task trying to catch such a shrewd and elusive enemy.
Fortunately, the caretakers of the Internet had thought it wise to do away with the anonymity by establishing the WHOIS protocol which has enabled and turned WHOIS database download services into one of the essential tools for cybersecurity specialists — allowing them to find all the identifiable information about domains. This includes their owners, registration details, phone numbers, and even information about who previously registered them and when.
So in this article, I’ll talk about the best WHOIS database download services that can lift the masks and shine the spotlight leading to the ultimate apprehension of cybercrime perpetrators. But before we dive in, let’s briefly talk about the overall relevance of WHOIS for cybersecurity.
Table of contents
- WHOIS database download as a pillar of cybersecurity
- What to look for in the best WHOIS database download products
- What’s out there: products and providers
- Provider 1: whoisxmlapi.com/whois-database-download
- Provider 2: domainnamestat.com/whois-database-download
- Provider 3: iqwhois.com/whois-database-download
- Provider 4: jsonwhois.com/whois-database-download
- Provider 5: whoisology.com/whois-database-download
- Provider 6: whoisdatabasedownload.com
WHOIS Database Download as a Pillar of Cybersecurity
It’s not hard to imagine the role of WHOIS databases in maintaining cybersecurity. First of all, they can be used to verify suspicious characters that may be plotting an attack or track down cybercriminals who use all sorts of schemes to conceal their identities.
However, an equally important function that a WHOIS database download service can perform is allowing experts to look into the domain data and the infrastructure surrounding them in order to identify threats and devise ways to stop them.
Specifically, experts can examine the registration details of entities that claim to have been in the business for a long time but whose actual records show they have actually just been registered last week or month — plausibly spreading doubts about what their intentions really are.
Newly-registered domains are of particular interest in this regard too because they have been proven to precede hacking attacks and could appear and disappear quickly as soon as they have served their purpose. This is not to say that all newly-registered domains are getting set up for malicious ends, but as a rule of thumb, they deserve a closer look through the WHOIS prism, just to be sure.
Additionally, spotting one dangerous domain name can support unveiling a whole bunch of them at once. Indeed, hackers may operate as lone wolves or they might be part of highly-organized criminal organizations. Either way, they rarely use just one domain at a time to fool their victims and they may make the mistake of providing the same details across registrations done in bulk. See the pattern here?
What’s more, access to WHOIS databases also strengthens proactive efforts designed to prevent damaging and costly data breaches. For instance, threat hunters can cross-check data from their various sources with domain registration details and look for inconsistencies that can give away plotters. Apart from this, WHOIS data can be incorporated into threat intelligence platforms to analyze hosting configurations and help gather evidenced-based data to fortify network infrastructures.
What to Look for in the Best WHOIS Database Download Products
A WHOIS database download service can be a solid foundation able to support many cybersecurity applications, but only if it is fully-equipped to handle all the technical requirements and operational demands from a variety of potential users. It’s surely a difficult yet laudable role which can be accomplished by meeting the following criteria:
- Number of domains — WHOIS database download services must be able to provide accurate data on as many domain names as possible. There are now almost two billion websites worldwide, and the database that can offer all or most of them would be in the best position to serve various cybersecurity use cases.
- Exhaustive data output — The best WHOIS database download service can also be determined according to the amount of domain information that it contains. The data should include important details such as the names of domain owners, email and physical addresses, contact numbers, dates of registration and expiration, and many more. Registrar information must also be available in case a user wants to report any malicious activity.
- TLD coverage — A WHOIS database download service should ideally cover generic top-level domains (gTLDs), country-code TLDs (ccTLDs), or new TLDs (nTLDs) to allow users to access the relevant data for whatever type of business or geographical location.
- Parsing quality — It is important for domain data to be appropriately structured in the database in order to be understood by users. This means that WHOIS databases should come in an easily readable format or programming language. It would be a plus if users could be given different choices of downloading formats to facilitate a smooth integration.
- Frequency of update — Tens of thousands of new domains are being registered on a daily basis. For this reason, a WHOIS database download must be regularly and frequently updated to provide both current and historic value. As much as possible, the information should be available as soon as a domain is registered.
- API access — The best WHOIS database download services should also have their own API for quick access to the data and to streamline operations.
What’s Out There: Products and Providers
When looking for the best WHOIS database download provider, one should remember that not all products are the same. The differences may be due to a vendor wanting to concentrate more on one aspect of the service over the others for some strategic reason or purpose.
For instance, there are WHOIS database downloads that provide exclusive custom reports on, say, ccTLDs or new gTLDs. Another may do so only for gTLDs, while the rest may not think that it’s necessary to customize reports at all.
All these may be attempts to focus on functionalities that cybersecurity professionals will be looking for or find useful. But whatever the differences are, users must make an effort to evaluate each WHOIS database download service according to how it fits their specific needs.
For example, those professionals who are focused on monitoring new domains can benefit from a WHOIS database download that provides automatic notifications whenever newcomers are registered. Specialists interested in bringing down malicious infrastructure can partner with an exhaustive reverse WHOIS database provider that allows them to track down connected domains with ease.
Indeed, being clear on what cybersecurity task you want to achieve is crucial. After all, the best WHOIS database download application should be measured according to how well it will answer the questions that will be thrown its way and not just on how many features it has in store.
Having said that, let’s review the following providers which have differentiated themselves by offering their own takes on offering a WHOIS database download service. We will rate each of them according to the criteria we have set. But again, it is up to you to ultimately decide which one would fit your idea of the most appropriate service and its capabilities.
Provider 1: whoisxmlapi.com/whois-database-download
WhoisXML API, which I am the proud founder, and its team has been compiling WHOIS records for more than ten years — accumulating a sizable database over time and satisfying the need of more than 52,000 customers.
At the moment, WhoisXML API offers several types of database downloads. Users can avail of a classic WHOIS database download, as well as a “newly registered and just expired domains” service, and more. All their downloads are parsed and normalized to a consistent format and allow easy integration with existing business processes. They can also be customized depending on customers’ requirements. The company also offers a set of domain research and monitoring tools which can complement the WHOIS database download service.
Here’s how the product fared according to the criteria discussed.
Number of domains — The database contains more than 1.2 billion domains and subdomains which account for 99.5% of all domains in operation. Also included are 300 million active domain names. Moreover, the dataset is growing at the rate of hundreds of thousands of domains and adjacent WHOIS records per day.
Data output — WhoisXML API has more than 5.2 billion historic WHOIS records that include registrant name, organization, e-mail address, registration address, registrar information, creation date, expiration date, updated date, domain availability, domain age, and more.
TLD coverage — More than 2,864 types of TLDs and ccTLDs are included in the databases.
Parsing quality — It’s possible to download information in XML, JSON, MYSQL, MYSQL dump, and CSV file formats. Additionally, each record contains all parsed fields of the domain’s data allowing it to be easily processed for whatever application specialists may be using.
Frequency of update — The database is updated daily which is especially important for cybersecurity professionals as they must keep up with current developments and pay close attention to the domain landscape.
API access — Whois XML API provides real-time APIs, including a WHOIS API ensuring quick access to the information. Additionally, the API can be used as an application for the Splunk platform so specialists can conduct WHOIS search right from within it.
Provider 2: domainnamestat.com/whois-database-download
Like their name suggests, Domain Name Stat specializes in domain statistics as the company gathers, analyzes, and processes key trends with regard to particular domain names offering their clients domain name registration statistics.
However, going through their website shows that they also provide an up-to-date historic WHOIS database download service enabling access to the past and current information on all domains that have ever been registered. The company describes its database as ‘exhaustive’ having monitored the WHOIS records of all domains since 2008.
Number of domains — This provider counts 300+ million active domain names in its database. The number represents a significant percentage of the approximately 333.8 million registered websites as of the first quarter of 2018.
Data output — Users can help themselves to 5 billion past and current WHOIS records. They include critical information on domain owners, e-mail and registration addresses, and contact numbers.
It is also possible to find out who registered the domains, as well as the domains’ age and expiry dates, the dates when they were last updated, and many more useful data such as billing name, administrator’s name, and tech support professional details.
TLD coverage — This database supports all types of domains which cover 2,864 TLDs and ccTLDs. The former includes .com, .org, .net, .us, .biz, .info, .mobi, .coop, .pro, and .asia, while the latter include .fr, .uk, and many more.
Parsing quality — Users are given the option of receiving a duly-parsed historic WHOIS database download in different formats, either as an MYSQL, MYSQL dump, or CSV file.
Frequency of update — The database is constantly updated which means that when users purchase a complete WHOIS database download, they are provided with access to future updates including data about new domain names.
API access — All the data that are available on this provider’s website can be accessed through a real-time API which is made available through a simple pricing structure.
Provider 3: iqwhois.com/whois-database-download
IQWhois is a reverse WHOIS domain name ownership database that can be useful for tracking connections between domain names and their owners, cross-referencing details, and monitoring brands. So based on its functionality it can be considered a research tool.
Though IQWhois does not provide a live WHOIS lookup service and the product does not include all domain extensions, the company behind it, nevertheless, offers a large WHOIS database which is available for full downloadable access. Those interested in doing so have the option of having the database customized according to their specific requirements.
Number of domains — IQWhois has 300+ million active domain names, and this number, according to the company, is growing each quarter.
Data output — The database contains 5 billion historic WHOIS records which include the organization, the name of the registrant, e-mail and registration addresses, registrar information, creation and expiry dates, the dates when the domains were last updated, the domains’ ages, and many more important details. Archived data is also available on many domain names.
Specialists conducting investigations might find interesting that the data can be used to research either individual domains and their owners or entire portfolios.
TLD coverage — The company covers 2,864+ TLDs and ccTLDs. They include .com, .net, .org, .us, .info, .pro, .biz, .mobi, .coop, .asia, .uk, .fr, .cn, .ru, and many more.
Parsing quality — Users are given the choice to download the database in either MYSQL, MYSQL dump, or CSV file format.
Frequency of update — This provider claims to update the database regularly.
API access — Currently, the company does not offer the interface.
Provider 4: jsonwhois.com/whois-database-download
JsonWHOIS is a domain API services provider offering historic WHOIS data for all domains. Customers can download partial or complete WHOIS database download which can be customized according to business needs.
Number of domains — At the moment they also have close to 300 million active domain names with complete historic WHOIS records.
Data output — Outputs contain complete domain information including names, addresses, phone numbers, registration dates, and many more.
TLD coverage — JsonWHOIS covers active WHOIS records for both gTLDs and ccTLDs. The 1,000+ gTLDs available include .com, .net, .org, .us, .biz, .mobi, .info, .pro, coop, .asia, and many new gTLDs. The hundreds of ccTLDs include uk, .fr, .cn, .ru, among others.
Parsing quality — Users can get both parsed and raw WHOIS data for download as MYSQL, MYSQL dump, or CSV file formats.
Frequency of update — The database is regularly maintained and updated weekly.
API access — The company provides a WHOIS API.
Aside from the WHOIS database download service and the corresponding API, JsonWHOIS also offers a Screenshot API. Users can grab a full-page screenshot of any domain with an option to either thumbnail it or display as is. So for specialists investigating how malicious websites grow and evolve, using WHOIS API simultaneously with the Screenshot API can come in handy, making a pair of quite useful research tools.
Provider 5: whoisology.com/whois-database-download
Whoisology claims to offer more than just data but a comprehensive and well-structured solution. That would resonate with specialists who are not just after the information per se but who are interested in the product that can be integrated into an existing system to support their cybersecurity applications.
This provider basically provides a domain name ownership archive with a database containing numerous searchable and cross-referenced domain WHOIS records. This is not a standard WHOIS lookup website but rather a database mainly focused on reverse WHOIS which can be especially useful for InfoSec investigations. As a result, users can gain access to historical WHOIS data which the company has been collecting since 2008.
Number of domains — Whoisology’s database contains 317+ million active domain names.
Data output — Like others, the service provides 5+ billion WHOIS records. Users can find out essential domain data such as ownership details, registrar information, registration and expiry dates, who to contact if there are any questions about the domain name, plus much more information depending on the specific requirements.
TLD coverage — Whoisology covers more than 2850 TLDs and ccTLDs. That includes 1,246 gTLDs (e.g., — .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, plus more) and 1,623 ccTLDs (e.g., — .uk, .fr, .cn, .ru, and more).
Parsing quality — Users can download the database in either MYSQL, MYSQL dump, or CSV file format. The output contains all of the analyzed WHOIS domain data fields which can be processed by any application.
Frequency of update — The database is updated daily.
API access — Whoisology data is available through a dedicated API.
Provider 6: whoisdatabasedownload.com
Whois Database Download claims to provide partial, complete, or customized historic domain WHOIS information. The service covers newly-registered domains, country-specific database and recently-expiring ones, and contains TLD domain lists and ccTLD domain lists. Upon subscription, users get 30 days of historical data since they are provided with instant access to the newly-registered domain database of the past 30 days.
The company also offers a country-specific WHOIS database that includes US, UK, Canada, Australia, India, France, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Russia, UAE, and many more countries separately. This can be quite convenient for specialists focused on investigations in a particular region or those only interested in keeping track of the domain space in a particular country where operations reside. Several options are also available for those users who want to purchase a multi-country database.
Number of domains — The website provides users with access to more than 40 million active domain names.
Data output — Users can get up-to-date domain information including the names of domain owners, their e-mail and registration addresses, important registrar information, dates of registration and expiration, dates when domains were last updated, domain ages, and many more. Archived data is also available on many domain names.
TLD coverage — Whois Database Download has been in the business of gathering domain WHOIS records for almost all TLDs, gTLDs, and ccTLDs. They also claim to support all domain extensions.
Parsing quality — This provider’s database is available for download in CSV format.
Frequency of update — The database is updated daily, so purchasing the complete WHOIS database download enables users to receive all future updates.
API access — This company’s WHOIS data are provided through real-time APIs which enable quick access and easy integration into a company’s system.
Another interesting aspect of this WHOIS database download service is a provision that allows customers the use, for testing purposes, of free samples of the WHOIS database for expired and registered domains.
Cybersecurity professionals have a handful of choices once it’s time to choose the best WHOIS database download. This article has taken an in-depth look at each of them — including their similarities and differences — to help in the selection, which, however, should ultimately be decided according to how well a service meets an organization’s unique specifications.
As noted earlier, I am the founder of WhoisXML API which means that I have first-hand information on the features and capabilities of the WHOIS database download product category. I welcome feedback or questions on whoisxmlapi.com or at email@example.com.
Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) — a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cyber-security companies. TIP is part of the Whois API Inc. family which is a trusted intelligence vendor by over 50,000 clients.
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Undoubtedly Blockchain is a highly versatile technology and has the capability to be deployed in a wide range of industry settings and use cases. Although Blockchain originated about a decade ago as a platform for the forerunner in cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, the historic rise of Bitcoin prices towards the final days of 2018 triggered an avalanche of cryptocurrencies with most of them riding on the Blockchain platform. While the great bull run for Bitcoin lasted a mere two weeks or so, it served as a massive billboard for Blockchain with a cross-section of intellectuals around the globe suddenly exploring Blockchain as distinguished from the cryptocurrencies and the sea-saw movement in its prices.
Now, the question arises whether Blockchain is a perfect or near perfect system for exchanges of every description, or, are there potential vulnerabilities with the technology. We, therefore, look at some of these potential vulnerabilities to help you determine whether you should harness this technology or not.
Working of Blockchain Explained
Blockchain represents a digital ledger that gets duplicated and spread across several thousand individual computers known as ‘nodes’. The central ledger is updated through collaborative interaction between the nodes. Each user is given access to a private and a public key. These keys represent secure cryptographic keys that provide limited interaction with the underlying system.
For instance, when two users are in agreement with the exchange of a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, one user initiates the transaction using his private/public key and the other user accepts the transaction using his/her public/private keys. At this point, they submit the transaction to a public P2P system. After this, the transaction is checked by segment of the overall system for all the information contained in the transaction. This process ensures that when the users who initiated the transaction are not in possession of the cryptocurrency they are claiming, the transaction is turned down. But, when all the nodes are in agreement, the transaction gets accepted and it then becomes a ‘block’ in the chain.
Major Factors of Security
The world today understands Blockchain as a secure technology. Ledgers have been in existence since the olden days of trade and commerce, but the vulnerability comes when they unfold in a digital environment. While these are rational perspectives, a crucial component is ignored in the Blockchain scheme of things. In turn vulnerabilities in the system have also been among the underlying causes for the wide fluctuation in price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Security Features of Blockchain
The following argument supports the conviction that Blockchain is indeed secure.
Blockchain relies on the ledger for keeping track of every financial transaction. Generally, these types of “master ledgers” are always vulnerable to attacks in a digital environment. When the ledger is compromised, it brings down the whole system with it.
For instance, if a record is altered, it has the potential of swindling huge sums of money. Or, when the intruder is merely reading all transactions, it gives him access to an array of sensitive and private information.
The Blockchain ledger is decentralized which means that a single system or computer cannot control the ledger in any manner or at any time. Thus, even if someone makes an attempt to gain access, it would require a co-ordinated and sophisticated attack from several thousand devices launching the attack simultaneously to gain access to the main ledger.
The chain is another important component of security. The decentralized ledger represents a long chain with sequential blocks. Each chain is another component of the overall puzzle. Structurally, all these records will date back to when the system was first launched. Therefore, anyone attempting to alter a transaction should also alter every transaction culminating in the particular transaction and do that with great accuracy. That perhaps provides a close-up view of the constraints involved in hypothetical tampering. In turn, these very constraints also enhance the security of the Blockchain system.
More Security Features
Apart from the above, there are other security features helping Blockchain stay secure.
- Two users are not adequate to reach an agreement on the health of a given transaction. Even in advanced payment process systems, only few links are available for verifying the chain. These systems have a seller, buyer and possibly some third parties like a credit agency or bank.
- Crypto keys employed in Blockchain exchanges represent marvellous modern cyber security. Every cryptographic sequence is complex, long and simply impossible to decipher except when you have the required authorization to view it. The public/private key system in play make the transaction further secure. All these are also achieved without transparency getting sacrificed and that makes Blockchain so unique.
Yet, there are vulnerabilities we should worry about
Even with all the security factors we have set out above, blockchain is not without its share of vulnerabilities. Therefore, when you consider investment in cryptocurrencies, you must be aware of these vulnerabilities. And, when you have plans to introduce blockchain into your business, you must take into account all the issues that impact blockchain security.
Blockchain technology is pretty difficult when you are creating it from scratch. A wrong step can render the entire system open to attack. This is not a flaw with the system, but the way you execute it. Likewise the technology is so complex that an average person would have difficulties understanding it thoroughly. In turn, that paves the way to problems when individuals do not understand the system in its entirety or appreciate the function and associated risks of the system.
Blockchain works perfectly when there are several hundred, or more preferably, several thousand nodes working in tandem. During the early stages of evolution this makes blockchain particularly susceptible to corruption and attack. For instance, if a user gained control over 51% of system nodes, he could potentially control the outcomes from the nodes as well. But, if on the other hand, the attacker gained access to say 20 nodes, his efforts would be futile.
Arguments in support of blockchain and some of the threat perceptions explained above are not comprehensive in nature and when you dig deeper you may find other points of vulnerability. The conclusion, therefore, is that blockchain is a fairly secure technology and the system enjoys a good network of users. But, as with any other system, blockchain does have its share of vulnerabilities. The key factor to remember is that most breaches are attributable to human error. Therefore, with proper protection and execution this technology is tamper proof and transparent.
Article written by Ainslee, Content writer at Blockchain Australia.
(Summary: Knowing these cybersecurity myths will help you identify the real threats and how to stay protected from them.)
- You will be killed if you are hit by a penny falling from the Empire state building.
- Lightning never strikes at the same place twice.
- Elephants are afraid of mice.
Well, these are some myths that are ridiculously funny. Myths are everywhere. And our digital world is not an exception. Such funny myths are prevailing even regarding a serious matter like cyber-security.
Simply put, the practice of cybersecurity is plagued with many misconceptions. These misconceptions hold businesses back from getting updates or employing the right strategies. Even worse, they make them vulnerable to cyber-attacks and these cyber attacks are common during the festive season that runs through Black Friday.
Here are some common cybersecurity myths you shouldn’t believe anymore.
My Business is Too Small to Be Hacked
Most small businesses think that they are immune to cyber-attacks because they don’t have critical data or big resources. Therefore, they are not that serious about their cyber-security.
As a result, they don’t implement strong cybersecurity practices like strong passwords, updated antivirus software and secure data processing. In addition, unlike their larger counterparts, they don’t invest heavily in cybersecurity.
This approach makes them vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In fact, they are a soft target for any hackers. According to one report, nearly 70 percent of small businesses have experienced cyber attacks in some form.
All You Need is Antivirus Software to Stop All Cyber Threats
This may have been true in the mid-90s.
Modern day hackers are so advanced and sophisticated that they can outwit the average antivirus software easily. Remember, antivirus is a precautionary step but isn’t enough to fortify your security.
Outdated antivirus software will only detect older viruses. It is not able to detect or prevent new spyware, worms, and ransomware. Such threats can break into your system through social media, software, devices and online services. Even the leading antivirus company, Norton, has admitted that antivirus software may not be enough.
It is important to employ other security measures to stay protected.
It’s the Duty of the IT Department to Protect against Cyber Attacks
IT pros have the technical expertise required to deal with cybersecurity threats, but employees, intentionally or unintentionally, often pose the biggest threat. This is something that the IT department can’t control. For example, employees may be using weak passwords or not scanning their devices while transferring data. Sometimes they click on a malicious attachment being sent via emails.
Surprisingly, over 95% of cyber incidents are due to human errors. Hackers look for non-tech employees or the weakest link to break into your network. Moreover, insider threat incidents like employees stealing data are all too common.
Therefore, cybersecurity is not the duty of your IT department only. Instead, it should be a responsibility for everyone from the bottom to the top of your organization.
Reporting a Security Incident will Stain My Business Image
An important requirement to deal with security breaches is your business’ mindset.
No matter how good your security practices, you can’t tell if you are 100% secure. Well, in reality, no one is.
Even big companies often face threats despite cutting edge security tools.
If you hide things, you are hindering your ability to stop incidents and handle the situation if hackers take on your organization. For example, sharing or reporting a security incident will help you find better ways to deal with it and will alert other businesses to the threat.
You are preparing yourself to prevent the next attack while helping others by pooling information. A customer or client will have more peace of mind knowing that you are going above and beyond to keep their data safe.
Will it harm your reputation? The truth is trying to sweep it under the rug will cause more damage in the long run.
Weak Passwords or Relying Only on Strong Passwords
Weak passwords are low hanging fruit for hackers. Only relying on strong passwords is not right either.
Weak passwords pose a great threat because they are easily predicted by cybercriminals. Using passwords like 1234, ABCD or even your date of birth, are easily guessed by hackers. No wonder that 81% of businesses faced data breaches because of weak passwords.
Make sure your password is composed of numbers as well as letters and special characters.
This, however, is not the only step you should take. Hackers are definitely looking for new ways to crack passwords. Therefore, you should implement new security measures like two-factor authentication.
Going Offline Means No Risk
The Internet is not the only way to get on the radar of cybercriminals. You are also vulnerable to attacks even in offline mode.
You may have people that are working inside your firewall with devices like laptops, external HDDs and USB drives. These devices can easily inject malware into your systems. Once malware gets into your system, it can bring down the entire network.
My Business Genre is Safe
No business is safe online, regardless of whether you sell curtains or offer advertising services. Every industry is at risk.
Hackers may steal your sales data and demand a ransom for releasing it (remember Wannacry). Or, they may derive sadistic pleasure by injecting malware to destroy your data.
Cyber-attacks have gone beyond the finance and tech industries to other businesses. Cybercriminals can target whatever appeals to them. Even if you are not a bank or financial services provider, there’s still the risk of someone getting into your network and creating mayhem.
So these are the cybersecurity misconceptions you shouldn’t believe anymore.
As noted above, however, achieving total cybersecurity can’t be guaranteed in this era of ever-increasing cyber-attacks. In fact, cybersecurity is a constantly evolving learning process to deal with new threats. Again, cybersecurity is a strategy rather than a tool or software to prevent an attack.
And, it is equally important to get your employees educated on cybersecurity. Cybersecurity training will help them identify the threats and the ways to deal with them.
What do you think? Please let me know by dropping your comment below. Stay safe!
Ahmad Hamidi is an author and editor at Secure Guard Security Services, a leading security guard company in California region.
Email phishing scams are unfortunately common. They involve scammers trying to get important personal information from people via email by masquerading as a legitimate business or organization.
Phishers typically attempt to deceive their targets by creating fake versions of websites that look real. Users enter their information just as they would on the real site, allowing the scammers to collect it. They often initially approach their targets via email, although they may also call targets on the phone.
Guarding against phishing, both as someone who receives email and as someone who sends email, is important. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Basic Signs of Phishing Scams
Phishers often imitate major brands and organizations when sending emails to targets. Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are among the brands imitated most often, but they are by no means the only companies phishers pretend to represent.
You should always be suspicious of unexpected emails from companies. This is particularly true if they claim to be sending urgent messages. Phishers try to get people to click on their emails by sending fake alerts about security concerns, financial irregularities, and similar issues.
You should also be suspicious when receiving emails with unexpected attachments. These could be malicious and should not be clicked on.
That said, phishers don’t always try to mimic companies recipients have accounts with. Sometimes they take the form of new contacts who are simply “reaching out” for information. Such emails should also be treated with caution.
How to Recognize Phishing Scam Sites
There are certain signs email recipients can look for to determine if they are being scammed. One is to simply compare the potentially “fake” site to the real thing. Although some scammers create very sophisticated mimic sites, many others make clear errors. If a site doesn’t look legitimate, it probably isn’t.
Sometimes the differences are subtle. For instance, a phisher might generally create a convincing fake site, but their version of the company logo doesn’t match the logo on the real site. Or, perhaps the login button on a fake site is a slightly different color than the actual login button. Small details such as these are worth paying attention to. Additionally, these sites sometimes feature excessive banners, another warning sign to look out for.
Phishers may also slightly modify the URLs of popular sites to convince users to click on them. For instance, someone trying to get your bank account information might create a URL where just one or two of the letters are rearranged (“eaxmple.com” instead of “example.com”), hoping you won’t notice the difference. That’s why it’s always a good idea to carefully check a URL before clicking on it.
Look for HTTPS
Another easy way to avoid phishing scams is to simply avoid clicking on URLs that don’t begin with “https.” Its presence indicates the site is secure. If a site is still using the old “http” protocol, err on the side of caution and don’t visit it. While it’s possible that some older sites haven’t updated to https yet, the vast majority of reputable sites have made the switch by now.
Take Extra Steps
Phishers often get the attention of targets by pretending to represent banks or the IRS. If someone receives an email telling them they owe money, they may feel they need to click on it and take the recommended action.
Don’t make this mistake. The IRS and many banks typically don’t get in touch with people via email anyway. If you suspect they are legitimately trying to contact you, instead of clicking a link you receive in an email, visit the actual site directly and log in. This is a small extra step that can make a big difference.
You might also want to consider using a password manager. This makes it easy to log in to sites with just a single click. You’ll be more inclined to take the extra step described here if you don’t need to manually enter your password every single time.
It’s also worth noting that many of today’s security suite products offer anti-phishing features that can be very effective. For additional protection, you may want to look into upgrading yours if it doesn’t boast such features.
Check Registration Data
If you suspect a URL may have been created for a phishing scam, you can always check its whois registration data. In most cases, phishing URLs are fairly new. Don’t click on a URL that supposedly links to a reputable company’s site if you learn the URL is only a few months old. That’s an obvious sign that it’s not legitimate.
These are important points to keep in mind for anyone who uses email in any capacity. It’s unfortunately fairly common for scammers to try and take advantage of unsuspecting victims online. You can avoid this by exercising basic caution.
Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course. Neverbounce.
Dirty Data Remains a Persistent Hurdle for B2B Companies to Overcome – Reports have shown that 94 percent of businesses suspect that their customer and prospect data is inaccurate. Thus, B2B companies need to take proactive measures to ensure data is clean in order to target messages to the right audience.
B2B marketers do not tolerate the effects of dirty data. At the same time, most marketers would prefer not to be involved with managing the data they use. Keeping marketing data clean is mostly a ‘not in my back yard’ issue. Marketers will talk about how important it is and how it’s a must, but they don’t want to, or don’t have the expertise to roll up their sleeves and clean their customer databases. However, data is a small part of any marketing budget, but there are plenty of reasons not to overlook the dirty data problem. IBM estimates losses in the US economy are over $3 trillion per year from poor data quality and costs businesses 15 to 25 percent of revenue.
Dirty data includes both records for contacts that are no longer with the company, companies that are no longer in business, and inaccurate information in critical targeting or contact fields. An inaccurate email is bad but having the wrong industry or company size assigned to a company can have the same impact, and it can spread across all records in that company.
Additionally, one of the most obvious effects of dirty data is improper expectations. Thinking you have a large, accurate list of target accounts when you don’t can cause you to improperly set expectations for your sales and marketing teams, which would end in teams focusing on the wrong problem when they ultimately don’t generate expected results.
In fact, poor CRM prospect data is responsible for a loss of 27 percent of each rep’s total selling time. When you have inaccuracies in your target fields (industry, company size, geography, etc), you will end up sending campaigns to the wrong audience. Poor quality CRM data also hurts the morale of sales and marketing employees that are working with it. It’s disheartening to pour your heart and soul into a campaign just to find out your efforts were undermined because you started with bad data. Or for a sales development representative to make 200 calls a day and have bad phone numbers and inaccurate personal data. This type of data issue regularly leads to sales reps saying they don’t want certain leads anymore because the data is too inaccurate. Overall, pursuing the wrong accounts or having inaccurate contact information is a waste of time and resources for everyone.
Also, there are additional costs for dirty data when you look at the CRM, ERP, and marketing automation systems used today. Most of these systems have a cost for the volume of data you keep in the system. Companies that use multiple systems are paying multiple times to house dirty data. If you look at the cost of systems like Salesforce, Marketo, Pardot, etc., compared to what the data costs that you put into these systems, it’s easy to see how the cost to house bad data can quickly become a significant portion of your data budget.
Dirty data within emails can get marketers kicked off email delivery platforms and can lead them to getting blacklisted. A lesser known but just as problematic of an issue is inaccurate targeting of email campaigns due to information like industry and geography being wrong. Complaints from recipients can also have marketers booted from their internet service provider or email delivery service.
Improper targeting in email campaigns can also hurt your SEO. By targeting the correct audience, with accurate data, you increase the number of purposeful searches for your site and users will tend to spend more time on your site, decreasing the likelihood for them to go back to Google and search for the same keywords. When you target the wrong contacts with your emails, it has the opposite effect. This is important because Google SEO thinks your site doesn’t fit the keywords searched if visitors quickly leave and run the same or a similar search again. This causes them to lower your search ranking for those keywords.
The easiest way to keep your data clean is to start with clean data. The two main areas to cover here are thoroughly vetting new data providers and having all contact and account data automatically fed into your systems screened. The type of screening will depend on the volume of data you get this way. If it’s manageable, someone can manually review it. Otherwise, filters can be set for what is manually reviewed or it can be outsourced to a third party.
Yet, reviewing data providers is usually easy, so it’s advisable to request and review a contact data sample of a reasonable size before making any purchase. The number of records in a sample is crucial because if they only give you five records, they can screen them, then only when a list is purchased is when you can see what they’re really providing. Reviewing the sample will show you the accuracy of both the individual contact fields as well as the overall targeting.
Contact data goes bad quickly and if you start with accurate data, you will still need to regularly clean your contacts. Flagging and removing email bounces is easy enough to do, but many emails will never bounce even when the contact is long gone. The best solution for a thorough cleaning is always a third party that can leverage a large internal database and go deeper than email verification.
Sky Cassidy is the CEO of MountainTop Data and host of the If You Market podcast. He grew up in rural Northern California and moved to Los Angeles after college. After a decade in the sales and marketing trenches and dabbling in the Southern California startup scene he took over as CEO of MountainTop Data, a provider of list and data services for B2B marketing.
The post Dirty Data Remains a Persistent Hurdle for B2B Companies to Overcome appeared first on SiteProNews.
It has been a year since the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has marked a series of events for the big data collectors and processors, such as Google and Facebook. Both of the tech giants have been subject to fines as a result of users’ data privacy misuses – by violating the GDPR, while Facebook is currently settling an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission for data misuse, which will cost the company a staggering 5 billion dollars.
Confounding the GDPR and Information Security
So, clearly, the implementation of such a privacy regulation has had its impact on the global tech business landscape, and as such, organizations of all types and sizes are constantly working to be compliant with the GDPR. However, being compliant with the GDPR entails securing the data of your users – in other words it is a trait of data privacy protection, and in this matrix it is easy to overlook and confuse this with information security. The latter, entails that the information is secure from unauthorized access from malicious attackers, while the former (data protection) is to say that the user data is and will not be shared with third parties without the knowledge and unambiguous consent of the user. The counterpart of the GDPR (data protection compliance) is the internationally recognized ISO/IEC 27001 – the international standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) which provides requirements on an Information Security Management System.
While it is easy to confuse the two domains – information security and GDPR compliance – the consequences of this confusion might be perilous to the point of threatening the existence of an organization. In other words, if an organization which is constantly striving to be compliant with the GDPR, all of a sudden is the victim of a cyber-attack which results in a cyber disaster – a massive data breach of some sort, such as Wannacry or the Marriott data breach– and is unprepared for such an event, it might risk its very existence in the market because of lawsuits, reputation damage and legal actions that might be taken by the government which enforces the law of the land that the organization is operating on. So let’s make a distinction: The Cambridge Analytica scandal was a users’ data privacy disaster, while the Marriott data breach was an information security disaster, because it was caused by black hat hackers.
The GDPR and ISO/IEC 27001
In today’s business world, online presence is not negotiable, and as such, if you are present online and have customers, you are forced to be at least a data collector, if not a processor. The difference between the two is that the former simply collects and stores the data, while the latter processes this data and produces results such as customer behavior, preferences, and connects them with age, gender, location and more.
Organizations, both for-profit and nonprofit, have been implementing the ISO/IEC 27001 a long time before the existence of the GDPR. So information security is a much older domain than data protection, because hackers have been present for as long as the internet has existed. Data privacy protection, on the other hand, made it to the public discourse only after users’ data became the “gold mine” of big tech players, which offer “free” services to users in exchange for selling their data to third parties, and scandals such as the Cambridge Analytica were events which really caught the public’s attention and made public opinion raise a voice.
As mentioned, ISO/IEC 27001 is an internationally recognized standard which provides requirements which have to be implemented by an organization in order to have in place an Information Security Management System. The standard has a series of controls that are meant to make sure that the information that the organization possesses, from internal and external sources, is secure from unauthorized access. As such, it is a very technical document, which outlines mechanisms, methods, 114 security controls. These controls make it an internationally applicable standard on information security for every type and size of organization because while these controls are exhaustive, they may or may not apply to every organization, and therefore ISO/IEC 27001, while being particular in what it offers, is universal in its applicability.
Integrating Information Security Management and Data Privacy Protection
However, information security and data protection are indeed complementary disciplines, and therefore an integration of GDPR compliance and ISO/IEC 27001 certification would be ideal for every organization, in that it would not only make the information the organization possesses secure from unauthorized third party access and would protect privacy, but it would also protect and improve the organization’s reputation and trustworthiness in the eyes of customers as well as stakeholders, while minimizing the impact (both technical and financial) of a cyberattack or data breach.
Currently, there is a standard being developed by ISO, the ISO/IEC 27552 – Security techniques, Requirements and Guidelines, which is an extension to the ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO/IEC 27002, and which provides the requirements to implement and maintain a Privacy Information Management System (PIMS), in addition to the Information Security Management System (ISMS) provided by ISO/IEC 27001.
Organizations can be certified against both standards upon the implementation, verification and successful auditing from an accredited and independent third party (a certification body), even though in order to obtain ISO/IEC 27552 certification, the organization must have already in place an ISMS according to ISO/IEC 27001 and be certified against it.
This new standard will make possible for organizations to implement privacy security controls in addition to information security controls, which would guarantee data privacy protection, and makes it an ideal approach to having a comprehensive management system to tackle both information security and data privacy compliance in accordance with the GDPR. Among others, the GDPR states that organizations which collect and/or process data must have an individual – a Certified Data Protection Officer (CDPO) – or team of individuals who are responsible for the management of data privacy within the organization. Most companies which have a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) have amalgamated the duties by delegating the responsibilities of the CDPO to either the CISO or the CTO and the respective teams, if they have any. This integration of duties seems natural because, as mentioned, the domains of data privacy protection and information security are complementary.
In conclusion, while data protection privacy and information security can be blended together in terms of duties and responsibilities, it is still essential for an organization to not neglect the difference between being GDPR compliant and having an information security management system in place based on the ISO/IEC 27001. The International Organization for Standardization is offering the solution by adding PIMS controls to an already existing ISMS, which will make the job of organizations much easier in being both GDPR compliant and cyber-resilient.
Julian Kuçi is the Marketing Quality Assurance Manager at the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB). He is an honor graduate of RIT in Economics & Statistics and Public Policy & Governance. Julian holds a diploma in Transitional Justice from the Regional School of Transitional Justice and is certified against ISO 9001 – Quality Management and ISO/IEC 27001- Information Security Management.
It’s no secret that Social Media brings more leads than other platforms. It has made the world a more connected place. That’s a good thing, but all those connections also allows unprecedented access to people’s and business’ information. And that can be worse if hackers and scammers get involved.
Reportedly, worldwide security breach costs will reach up to $6 Trillion by 2021 – a 100% rise from 2015, with social media being an essential channel for cybercriminals. Giving up social media is not a reasonable solution, neither is it sensible to use social networks insecurely.
Having strong governance practices is essential to manage increasing social media security risks. It’s not for you or me, but for your brand reputation, data protection, and leads demand it!
You need to take the right steps to protect your company against some of the most unwelcome hackers, but for effective governance practices, it is essential to understand the potential threats. This is how you can prevent, or at least, mitigate the increasing attacks.
Let’s disclose the typical social media security issues!
Social Media Security Risks
Some of the most common security issues are:
- Unattended Social Media Profiles – It’s good to reserve your brand’s handle on all social media channels but ignoring any channel means hackers can post anything (fraudulent messages, virus-infected links, false information) under your name.
- Human Error – Clicking or downloading the wrong link or file could wreak havoc.
- Phishing Scams & Brand Impersonation – Phishing involves setting up a fake website resembling that of the company whose customers are targeted to seek sensitive information (login credentials, credit card information, etc.).
- Connected Apps – Most company profiles are connected to different accounts – listening system, publishing system, analytics system, etc.; these can be in-roads to access, so the security practices around them are also critical.
- Malware Hacks and Attacks – Social media hackers are sophisticated, gaining access to big-name Twitter accounts, from Mark Zuckerberg to Kylie Jenner, to several HBO shows. These hacks were benign but others were way more serious.
- Privacy settings – A survey found that around two-thirds of people have “very little” or “no” trust in social networks in terms of privacy protection. For brands, the risk to privacy is way higher because of the usage – business and personal use.
- Unsecured Mobile Devices – What if your, or an employee’s, phone is lost or stolen. One-tap click makes it easy for hackers to access social accounts. They can message all of your connections with phishing or malware attacks.
Such attacks are becoming more frequent and pernicious. It’s essential for organizations to review their social media and digital risk processes and practices to understand their respective threats. This will help them to better prepare organizations to secure their business, employees, customers, and brand against information leakages and data breaches.
With that in mind, let’s explore the three most important ways organizations can “clean up” their social media presence to secure their data and ensure protection.
Tip 1: Protect company data
Data is an asset of an organization. To evaluate the risks associated with the data, understanding the data and accounts an organization owns is a must. To start, keep an inventory of social media accounts, e-commerce sites, domains, and any other digital channels owned or affiliated with your organization that will provide valuable insights. Don’t forget to review the privacy settings of your accounts during the inventory process to ensure that data is well protected.
To deal with this issue, consider these questions;
- What are you sharing?
- Who can see your posts?
- What about your locations, contact information, or any other private details?
So, how can you protect the data your company owns?
- Good passwords – choose stronger passwords and never reuse a password. In case you’re sharing account passwords for any reason, consider a password manager rather than sharing sensitive information using spreadsheets or text files.
- Monitor and evaluate early warning signs of risky account behavior. Once hacked, bad actors often immediately change profile names, pictures, biographies, and other details. Because of this, organizations should review their, as well as their followers’, accounts and purge any suspicious follower/s.
- To restrict cybercriminals from hijacking your company’s account, hack-proof tools like firewall, VPN, etc. should be considered to keep the data secure, both in the system and the cloud.
- Part of your governance process should also include a Discovery system to find counterfeit accounts. Once found, send them to the Legal department for Cease and Desist procedures.
Recognizing such signs can help security teams take immediate action if an owned account is hijacked.
Tip 2: Protect employees and their networking
Savvy employees are an organization’s brand ambassadors, especially on social media. They use numerous software tools to share or repost the latest company news with their personal accounts.
To ensure employee data is safe, empower your staff to protect themselves by training and educating them. Investing in more straightforward tools for employees to securely and confidently share company news will also aid in this endeavor as well.
Reviewing and updating outdated policies as part of your cleaning process will help to develop training programs for employees that not only guide them regarding corporate social media policies, but also promote social media security practices.
What key topics should you consider? Have a look!
- What kind of information should or can never be shared digitally.
- Policy details to engage with customers.
- Policy details related to internal channels and management tools, e.g., Slack.
Although many companies have already invested in training employees to understand the security risks associated with applications like email, in today’s digital age, it is wise to do the same for social media channels as well.
Be sure to implement a policy restricting employees from connecting to applications tied to social accounts that are not approved by the social media governance.
Tip 3: Protect Customers’ data too
Keeping accounts secure not only protects an organization’s brand against impersonators, cybercriminals, offensive content, and spam, but also protects social media followers and customers.
In that vein, organizations must strive for uber transparency in their use of customer data and vigilantly monitor and protect against misuse or breach. Invest in tools or processes to proactively identify and quickly remediate targeted attacks.
Equipping support teams and personnel with capabilities to identify and remove scams, malicious links, and account impersonations or takeovers will protect every stakeholder in the business and avoid reputation damage and/or costly disruptions.
Here’s a 10-step guide to help you build a social media protection program:
- Prepare a Task force
- Assess and prioritize Risks
- Assign designated roles and responsibilities
- Develop processes and Policies
- Train staff
- Monitor risks
- Look for trends and update policies accordingly
- Schedule policy audits
- Report and review
- Regularly upgrade your social media protection checklist
This is the perfect time for all entrepreneurs to spruce up their social-media security program, incorporating best-practices. From digital marketing to security protocols, identifying and mitigating risks wherever possible, is crucial to the health of businesses.
Terry Higgins is an IT security expert, having a decade of experience working in Technology. He loves to write about online security and privacy. His passion is photography and traveling in his spare time.
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