Skip to content
Strategy

Social Media Security: Risks, Best Practices, and Tools for 2024

Learn about the most common social media security risks and the best practices that will help you protect your accounts.

Christina Newberry June 13, 2024
cover image

Keeping your social accounts secure is a critical component of your social media strategy. Here, we’ll walk you through the latest social media security risks. Then we’ll explore how you can protect yourself, your brand, and your team.

Bonus: Get a free, customizable social media policy template to quickly and easily create guidelines for your company and employees.

What is social media security?

Social media security refers to the practices taken to protect your social media account, information and privacy. These measures provide security from threats like:

  • Hacking
  • Phishing
  • Malware
  • Data breaches
  • Identity theft
  • Spread of misinformation

Nowadays, platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn are relied upon for communication, marketing, and customer service. Therefore, social media security awareness is important for both business and personal accounts.

Why is social media security awareness so important?

Social media accounts contain a wealth of data. They’re linked to personal information, customer connections, credit card details, and so much more. Without social media security protocols in place, all that information is at unnecessary risk.

Common social media security risks

Phishing and scams

Phishing scams are some of the most common social media cyber security risks. The goal of a phishing scam is to get you or your employees to hand over passwords, banking details, or other sensitive information.

Fake giveaways are one common type of phishing scam. Fraudsters impersonate companies like Best Buy or Bed Bath and Beyond to offer a significant coupon or prize. Of course, you have to provide personal information to access the non-existent reward.

In another variation, someone claims to be a lottery winner who wants to share their winnings.

Online shopping and investment scams are also significant problems on social media. Losses reported to the FTC that started on social media jumped from $237 million in 2020 to $1.4 billion in 2023.

Social media is the most common contact method for scammers targeting Americans aged 20 to 69. In fact, 2023 was the first year social media became the primary contact method for those in their 40s through 60s.

Warn your parents and grandparents (and your C-suite)!

graph of age and fraud loss FTC Consumer Sentinel Network

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Imposter accounts

It’s relatively easy for an imposter to create a social media account that looks like it belongs to your company. This is one reason why getting verified on social networks is so valuable.

Impostor accounts can target your customers, employees, or prospective hires. Your connections may be tricked into handing over confidential information. In turn, your reputation suffers. Imposter accounts may also try to con employees into handing over login credentials for corporate systems.

LinkedIn’s latest Community report notes that they took action on more than 63 million fake accounts in just the last six months of 2023. Most of those accounts (90.5%) were blocked automatically at registration. However, 232,400 fake accounts were only addressed once members reported them.

LinkedIn July to December 2023 Community Report 
Fake accounts detected and removed

Source: LinkedIn

Meanwhile, Facebook took action on 631 million fake accounts between January and March 2024. The social media platform estimates that 4% of monthly active users are fake accounts.

AI information gathering

There’s a lot of information about your business – and your employees – on social media. That’s not new. What is new is the ability to gather crumbs of information from multiple sources and use it to train an AI tool to produce content.

That makes it easier for bad actors to create convincing, fraudulent social media posts and direct messages.

In fact, 20% of Gen X say it’s hard to tell what’s real or fake regarding social content generated by AI. Younger generations find it only slightly easier: 15% of Millenials and 14% of Gen Z also struggle here.

social content generated by AI graph of agreement with the following statements by age generation category

Source: Hootsuite Social Media Consumer 2024 Survey

Fraudsters can also use information gathered from social media to train an AI tool. They are then well-equipped to contact your employees through other means. AI social media and search tools can also support scammers by seeming to verify false information.

Case and point: A Canadian man was recently scammed by a fraudulent Facebook customer support line. He felt comfortable giving his information to the scammer because a chat with Meta AI told him the phone number he found online was legitimate. (It was not.)

Malware attacks and hacks

In one of the more embarrassing recent social media cyber security incidents, the X (formerly Twitter) U.S. Security and Exchange Commission account was hacked in January.

If hackers gain access to your social media accounts, they can cause enormous brand reputation damage.

A newer threat to social media business accounts is hijacking a social media ad account with attached payment methods. They can then run fraudulent ads that appear to come from a legitimate source (you!) but actually direct the user to malware or scams (bad!).

graph of security risks threat groups targeting Meta Business accounts

Source: W/Labs

Vulnerable third-party apps

Locking down your own social accounts is great. But hackers may still be able to gain access through vulnerabilities in connected third-party apps.

Instagram specifically warns about third-party apps that claim to provide likes or followers:

“If you give these apps your login information … they can gain complete access to your account. They can see your personal messages, find information about your friends, and potentially post spam or other harmful content on your profile. This puts your security, and the security of your friends, at risk.”

Password theft

Those social media quizzes asking about your first car or elf name might seem like harmless fun. But they’re a common method for gathering password information. Or to learn personal details that are often used as forgotten password clues.

By completing them, employees can compromise their cyber security on social media.

Employees can also unwittingly provide clues to their forgotten password hints. This info may appear in posts about life events. Think: graduations, weddings, and birthdays. It’s always best to limit personal information shared online, especially on public profiles.

Privacy settings and data security

People seem to be well aware of the potential privacy risks of using social media. Those concerns, of course, don’t stop people from using their favorite social channels. The number of active social media users grew to 5.07 billion as of April 2024.

Make sure you – and your team – understand privacy policies and settings. This applies to both your personal and business accounts. Provide privacy guidelines for employees who use their personal social accounts at work, or to talk about work.

Unsecured mobile phones

Surprisingly, 16% of Americans never use phone locking features such as a passcode, fingerprint, or face recognition. Their social accounts and other data are completely accessible to anyone who gets their hands on their mobile device.

16% of smartphone owners don't use a security feature to unlock their device, older adults especially prefer not to

Source: Pew Research Center

Failing to update phone software also exposes users to unnecessary risk. Only 42% of American smartphone users have their software set to update automatically, and 3% never update their smartphone software at all.

Social media security best practices for 2024

Now that you know the risks, here are some ways to mitigate them.

Implement a detailed social media policy

A social media policy is a set of guidelines that outline how your business and your employees should use social media responsibly.

At a minimum, the security section of your social media policy should include:

  • Rules related to personal social media use on business equipment
  • Social media activities to avoid, like quizzes that ask for personal information
  • Which departments or team members are responsible for each social media account
  • Guidelines on how to create an effective password and how often to change passwords
  • Expectations for keeping software and devices updated
  • How to identify and avoid scams, attacks, and other security social media threats
  • Who to notify and how to respond if a social media security concern arises

Set up an approval process

Limiting the number of people who can access and post on your social accounts is an important defensive strategy.

You might focus on threats coming from outside your organization. However, employees are a significant source of accidental data breaches.

You may have whole teams of people working on social media messaging, post creation, or customer service. But not everyone needs to know the passwords to your social accounts – or have the ability to post.

You can use Hootsuite to collaborate on secure social media without sharing passwords. Then, the post goes into an approval workflow.

Use two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is not foolproof. But it does provide a powerful extra layer of protection for your social media accounts. It’s best practice to enable it for all secure social media accounts, even if it can sometimes be annoying.

In fact, a lack of two-factor authentication contributed to the SEC Twitter account hack.

Set up an early warning system with social media security monitoring tools

Keep an eye on all of your social channels. That includes the ones you use every day and those you’ve registered but never used.

Use your social media monitoring plan to watch for:

  • Imposter accounts
  • Suspicious activities
  • Inappropriate mentions of your brand by employees
  • Inappropriate mentions of your brand by anyone else associated with the company
  • Negative conversations about your brand

Regularly review your social media security measures

Social media security threats are constantly changing. Regular audits of your social media security measures will help keep you ahead of fraudsters.

At least once a quarter, be sure to review:

Social network privacy and security settings

Social media companies routinely update their privacy and security settings. For example, X (formerly Twitter) disabled two-factor authentication via text message for non-premium users in March 2023.

In April 2024, the platform rolled out Passkeys as a login for all iOS users worldwide. Both are important security changes that should be addressed in your social media policy.

Access and publishing privileges and approval workflows

Regularly checking who has access to your social media management platform and publishing privileges on your social accounts.

Update as needed. Make sure all former employees have had their access revoked. Check for anyone who’s changed roles and no longer needs the same level of access.

Recent online security threats

Maintain a good relationship with your company’s IT team to improve your social media security awareness.

They can keep you informed of any new security risks and social engineering attacks. And keep an eye on the news—big hacks and major new threats will be reported in mainstream news outlets.

Your social media policy

As new networks gain popularity, security best practices change, and new threats emerge. A quarterly review will ensure this document remains useful and helps to keep your social accounts safe.

3 Social media security tools to keep your channels safe

1. Hootsuite

With Hootsuite, team members never need to know the login information for any social network account. You can control access and permission, so everyone gets only the necessary access.

You can then build an approval workflow that automatically bumps content from the creator to the approver. Notifications ensure everyone knows when they need to complete an approval or revision task.

If someone leaves the company, you can disable their account without changing social media passwords.

You can add an extra level of security with Hootsuite’s Proofpoint integration. This compliance software automatically reviews social content before publishing. This ensures it follows your social policy and relevant legislation and regulations.

supervision compliance

Psstt: Learn more about setting up Proofpoint here.

Hootsuite is also an effective social monitoring tool that keeps you ahead of threats. It monitors social networks for mentions of your brand and keywords. You then know right away when suspicious conversations about your brand emerge.

For example, say people are sharing phony coupons, or an imposter account starts tweeting in your name. You’ll see that activity in your streams and can take action before your customers get scammed.

Hootsuite Streams

Psstt: Hootsuite is also FedRamp authorized and Cyber Essentials compliant. Learn more about our risk management program and information security policies.

2. ZeroFOX

Zero

Source: ZeroFOX

ZeroFOX is a cybersecurity platform that provides automated alerts of:

  • Dangerous, threatening, or offensive social content targeting your brand
  • Malicious links posted on your social accounts
  • Scams targeting your business and customers
  • Fraudulent accounts impersonating your brand

It also helps protect against hacking and phishing attacks.

3. BrandFort

BrandFort content moderation tool removes spam in comments

Source: Brandfort

BrandFort can help protect your social accounts from spam and phishing comments, and other content moderation issues.

Why are spam comments a cyber security and social media risk? They’re visible on your profiles and may entice legitimate followers or employees to click through to scam sites. You’ll have to deal with the fallout, even though you did not directly share the spam.

Brandfort also detects and hides personally identifiable information that followers post in comments on your posts. This helps protect them from phishing and fraud attacks.Plus, BrandFort uses AI to detect problem comments in multiple languages and hide them automatically.

Plus, you can integrate Brandfort directly into the Hootsuite dashboard.

Easily manage all your company’s social media profiles using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage your followers, monitor relevant conversations, measure results, manage your ads, and much more.

Do it better with Hootsuite, the all-in-one social media tool. Stay on top of things, grow, and beat the competition.

Free 30-Day Trial

Become a better social marketer.

Get expert social media advice delivered straight to your inbox.

By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

Related Articles