Online Social Media Security – How Safe Are You and Your Children?

Online Social Media Security – How Safe Are You and Your Children?

In early December, I was asked to speak to a reporter from Univision Las Vegas about online social media security. The reason for the story was that an online scammer stole the pictures of a little girl and made up a story about how the little girl had been kidnapped. Thankfully, the little girl was at home safe with her family but the fake story aimed to raise funds to pay for a ransom to have her released and people were falling for the scam.

Another worrying trend with photos of children is what has been termed as “digital kidnapping” or baby role playing. In these cases, a person will steal photos of a child and repost the pictures claiming that the children are their own. Parents have found entire profiles filled with pictures of their children with another person claiming to be the person’s mother or father.

While there are risks to posting pictures of your little ones on social media, it does not mean that you should stop sharing those precious moments with far-away friends & family on social media although a survey from the University of Michigan found that 68% of parents are worried about their child’s privacy online and 67% are worried that the photos will be reshared.

There are things that you can do to increase your social media profile security when posting pictures of your children including:

  • Restrict who can see your child’s pictures
  • Restrict the ability to share your child’s picture
  • Use a watermark
  • Turn off location services when posting from your phone

Children aren’t the only victims

Remember the story about how now NFL star Manti Te’o fell for a girl who really never existed over a period of a couple of years? Online romance scams have become so prevalent that they account for higher financial losses than other internet-based crimes with victims typically losing tens of thousands of dollars according to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. There have also been so many victims that there is now a support group called Scam Survivors, with a hotline and information resource center for those that have been duped by online scams.

For years now, fake profiles are created by scammers with duplicated names and profile pictures. And because people still fall for their scams, the fraudsters continue despite Facebook’s attempts to reduce the number of fake accounts. Once a fake profile is created the scammer may begin adding and contact family or friends. Then they start collecting information. And eventually, there comes a message claiming that they had been mugged, lost everything, and are stranded on the streets of a foreign city and in desperate need of help. Some years ago, this happened to my parents who received one such message from one of my brothers saying that he had been mugged in London which prompted my parents to question first how did he end up there and secondly, how did the scammer know to contact them to ask for help?

Other social media online safety tips include:

  • Don’t publicly post about going on vacation. It lets people know that your home will be vacant.
  • Never publicly post your address, home telephone or mobile number.
  • Manage your friends lists. Not all friends are created equal as Stay Safe Online eloquently puts it so categorize your social media friends into groups and restrict the information that you share with them.
  • Privacy settings exist for a reason, so use them! Use privacy settings (such as restricting posts to just select people or groups) when posting personal details.
Potential Security Threats to Wearable Technology

Potential Security Threats to Wearable Technology

The first computer, known as Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), was made over the course of three years, took up over 1,800 square feet, and weighed nearly 50 tons. Since then, computers have gotten smaller and more innovative, first to fit our desks, then our laps, our pockets, and now, we can wear computing devices on our bodies.

These devices, known as wearable technology, can be divided into five major categories: smart headgear, smart watches, fitness trackers, wearable medical devices, and smart clothing/accessories. As you can tell by the categories, these devices range from vanity gadgets, like Google Glass, to health-related devices, such as the ZIO wireless patch (which wirelessly tracks cardiac arrhythmia) and fitness trackers like Fitbit which help you manage your health.

The market for wearable technology is expected to grow to be worth over $34 billion with 411 million smart wearable devices sold by 2020, with the majority of the devices being comprised of smart watches and fitness trackers. With such a high amount of anticipated growth, there are also many factors that need to be considered, primarily the potential vulnerabilities that these devices can pose to their users.

Potential Vulnerabilities

Insecure Wireless Connections

Wearable devices often offer the ability to connect us even further by linking to our smartphones, laptops, and tablets via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and other connections. While this allows us to do things like track our food intake in tandem with exercise on fitness trackers and related tracking apps, it also creates another potential point of entry for hackers to gain access to our information.

Lack of Encryption

Like other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, wearable technology relies heavily on cloud-based computing. While ‘the cloud’ has become a buzz word, it is not a very secure space. Data being stored on manufacturer’s or service provider’s cloud servers is highly vulnerable because of a lack of encryption by service providers. This lack of security allows for hackers to have easier access to sensitive data stored in these devices’ clouds. Some third-party apps, which connect to these wearable devices, neglect basic security standards and hold onto information that is not encrypted. The kind of data that’s automatically being collected and stored by wearable devices is very valuable to hackers trying to steal sensitive information.

Nonexistent Regulations

Manufacturers will have to address the many security issues surrounding wearable devices — whether they choose to self-regulate or be bound by government regulations, a decision needs to be made in order to protect individuals and businesses from attack. These IoT devices need to be secured before being brought into businesses in order to protect the company’s network. Regulations could potentially shift the responsibility for any subsequent breaches or attacks that occur from the manufacturers of these devices to the company’s who fail to secure their networks.

Sensitive Data Exposure

Devices like fitness trackers, smart watches, and VR headsets contain a plethora of information about their users. On a smart watch, for example, users have the ability to receive text and email alerts, and even conduct online banking activity as well. When users use these devices, which are lacking in regulations and lacking in encryption, they could potentially be exposing any of the sensitive data accessed on these devices, including login credentials, banking information, Social Security numbers, and much more. Because of the potential severity of a malicious actor accessing this data, it is important for individuals and businesses alike to look at how they can secure these devices.

Secure your Devices

We can now all pretend to be David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider with spy-like smart watches, or submerse ourselves in virtual worlds with VR headsets, and while these are great technological advancements, it is essential that these devices are protected. Fitness bands or smart watches that monitor and capture information about things such as your movement using GPS or your personal information like logins and passwords can provide a malicious actor with details about our daily routines and current location or allow them access to your private accounts. While this can be a scary thought, there are steps that can be taken in order to protect you from these, and other, vulnerabilities.

  • Remote erase feature– If your business allows wearable technology, employees should be encouraged to enable the ability to remotely erase data from and/or disable their device if it is ever lost or stolen. This is similar to the ‘Find my iPhone’ feature on Apple smartphones, and it is a feature that wearable device manufacturers should really consider implementing in the future production of devices in order to protect their users.
  • Increased regulation– As mentioned before, whether it is among the manufacturers or by government intervention, regulations are necessary in order to keep a certain high-quality standard for these devices’ integral cybersecurity upon their creation.
  • Custom security levels– By allowing users the ability to choose their own level of security, this gives them responsibility over their own safeness. Users seldom consider security when wearing their devices, so defaulting to the least secure settings opens a vulnerability for hackers to exploit; however, if users are prompted to look directly at their own level of cybersecurity for the massive amounts of data stored on these devices, they are likely to decide to better protect themselves.
  • Encryption of data– If a hacker was tricky enough to actually gain access to your wearable technology device, having that data encrypted makes it that much harder for him/her to gain access to the sensitive information stored on it. Though there is currently a lack of encryption when it comes to these devices, Bluetooth encrypting and the encryption of valuable data will aid users in enhancing their overall cybersecurity.
  • Physical protection of devices– A small Apple watch is much easier for someone to steal from you while you walk down the street than it would have ever been to steal ENIAC back in the ’40s. Like many IoT devices today, a major concern is that a passerby might grab your device out of your pocket when you’re not looking. By storing your devices in safe places and passcode locking them, you can make it harder for physical criminals to take your data or access it if they do. As mentioned above, if this were to occur, newer wearable technology oftentimes comes with a remote erase feature in order to save your data.

Hailey R. Carlson | Axiom Cyber Solutions | 02/20/2017