Digital security has become a much bigger concern over the past few years. Recent statistics show that 60% of small businesses that suffer a data breach are forced into bankruptcy within six months. This figure is likely higher for online retailers since they are obviously more dependent on their digital presence. Online retailers are taking stronger precautions to guard their e-commerce websites against the growing number of cyber threats. The problem is that they often ignore the need to protect other digital properties, such as social media accounts.
The problem is that social media accounts can be even more vulnerable to cyber attacks. The consequences of failing to secure your e-commerce social media profiles can be just as devastating.
The consequences of failing to secure your online store can be severe
One of the biggest fears that any e-commerce company has is that its website will be hacked. This could create any number of problems:
- Customer information could be released, as was the case with the Target security breach in 2013. This could destroy faith in your brand and lead to expensive lawsuits or fines if customer financial information fell into the wrong hands.
- Hackers could maliciously remove content that you spent hours, days or months creating. This would make it very difficult to rebuild your online store from scratch after you regained access to your site.
- Hackers could use your website for black hat SEO practices, which will wreck your own search engine rankings and hurt your brand image. I recently came across a website that sells Wicca supplies. The site had been hacked and used to point spam links to several other online stores. According to my analysis with SEMRush, this security breach drastically hurt their SEO rankings. It also meant that site was no longer trusted by Google, so emails automatically went to customers’ spam folders.
- The hackers could release lots of sensitive information, such as access codes to certain products.
Since there have been a number of high-profile incidents where these types of things have happened, it is easy to understand the concern. The problem is that the need to secure social media accounts is more important than ever, yet many businesses overlook the risk altogether. They believe that their social media accounts will not be hacked until they are…
The Cult of Mac discovered this the hard way. They left a frightening article on their website informing their followers that their Facebook account had been hacked. The hackers used their Facebook page to post all kinds of crazy spam messages.
The Cult of Mac updated the page 24 hours later to let people know that it had been recovered. They stated that regaining access to a hacked Facebook page is nearly impossible. They were fortunate enough to know somebody that worked at Facebook. Otherwise, they say that they would never have regained access to it.
The consequences of failing to secure your social media properties can be severe. Here are some risks that online retailers need to be aware of.
Hackers can tarnish your online brand by spamming with your social media accounts
As the Cult of Mac shows, hackers can use your social media account to bombard your followers with spam messages. Your followers will understand that you aren’t responsible for the spam messages. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t hold you entirely blameless. They will be upset that you failed to properly secure your social media accounts, thereby exposing them to unwanted spam. If any of them were duped by a scam, then they will probably hold it against you.
Hackers could definitely lock you out of your account
As the Cult of Mac pointed out, they were only able to regain access to their account because they had a relationship with people that worked at Facebook. You might not be nearly as lucky. It is possible that you will never resume control of your social media accounts after they have been hacked. Your only option will be to build new social media accounts from scratch. This could be a painstaking process and you may never fully rebuild your social media presence, especially if you have lost people’s faith in the aftermath of the security breach.
Your customer support strategy might suffer
A growing number of online retailers are using social media as part of their customer support strategy. They don’t always deliberately set out to use social media to answer customer inquiries or concerns. They often are forced to develop one organically after numerous customers start reaching out to them with questions and complaints.
Whether you intended to use your social media platforms to field customer questions or not, you will probably need to do so on at least an occasional basis. If your social media accounts are compromised by hackers, you will be unable to address these concerns.
If the hacker merely locked you out of your account without making any spam posts that indicate that the account is compromised, your customers may have no idea that you no longer have access to it. They might get very upset that you are unable to respond because they assume that you are ignoring them.
This can become a major nightmare if customers are trying to raise complaints about products they purchased from your online store or ask for their money back in accordance with your refund policy. They might believe that you are reneging on your contract and even file a complaint with the FTC.
Information could be used to access other online accounts, including your payment providers and website
Having your social media account get hacked is going to be traumatic enough on its own. The problem will get even worse if hackers use the information to get access to other platforms.
When they gain access to your social media profiles, they might be able to see your answers to security questions that you use to reset it. If you used these answers for the same security questions on other platforms, they may be able to gain access to those as well. As bad as it will feel to find out your Facebook account has been hacked, you will feel a lot worse if the hackers are able to take over your website or a PayPal account as well.
What steps should you take to make your social media accounts more secure?
The last thing that you want to do is leave your social media accounts vulnerable to hackers. At first glance, it may seem that there isn’t as much that you can do to make your social media profiles more secure as you can with your own website. Although you don’t have the same level of control over your online security with your social media accounts, there are still plenty of things that you can do to minimize the risks that they will be accessed by hackers. Here are some of the most important social media security tips that you can follow.
Don’t use the same login credentials for your social media profiles, website administrator dashboard or other online accounts
Hackers might not target your social media profiles for their own sake. They might be looking for information they can use to gain access to your other properties. They understand that people are more lax with their security on social media than they are with their websites or online financial accounts.
You need to be careful about choosing the same security questions for all of your accounts. If you do, then a hacker that gains access to one of them will be able to read all of your answers and use them to reset the passwords on all of your other accounts too.
It is also never a good idea to use the same password for all of your accounts. Hackers understand that companies often give third-party contractors and virtual assistants access to social media accounts, but would never do the same thing with their website. This means that they could use social engineering strategies to trick your social media managers into installing keyloggers to find out what the passwords are for your profiles. If you use the same passwords for your e-commerce website or payment providers, then they would have complete access to them.
Make sure that you are aware of the most recent social engineering strategies that hackers use
In the 1990s and early 2000s, it wasn’t uncommon for hackers to use brute force attacks to gain access to accounts. Hackers have evolved over the past decade. They use much more sophisticated and sinister strategies to launch their attacks. This is why it is important to hire people with a CEH certification that understand online threats.
Many hackers use social engineering to trick people into downloading malware like keyloggers that will give them access to social media accounts or other information. There are many ways they can conduct these scams. One way is by pretending to be a customer that sends a private message on Twitter or Facebook. They might attach a file, claiming that it is a screenshot or something. Once you download it, they might be able to install malware that lets them steal the passwords for your social media profiles.
These types of strategies are constantly evolving. It is important to stay on top of them so that you can warn everybody on your social media team to be wary.
Make sure every device you use has the most recent malware protection
Online retailers often assume that there is little they can do to protect their social media accounts from malware attacks since they can’t install malware protection technology on their social media profiles. This myth needs to be laid to rest because it leaves them vulnerable in other ways. The security on social media sites is usually pretty good, so hackers will take advantage of weaknesses in your own strategy. They might try to gain access to your devices, so they can reset your passwords. They recognize that people are less cautious about protecting their mobile devices than their desktops. This means that they can try to install malware on their mobile devices that gives them access to their social media accounts. At this point, they can easily reset your passwords and sever your access to them.