Navigating Social Media Security: Protecting a Business Against Cyber Risks

Navigating Social Media Security

Social media attacks are on the rise. Learn best practices for protecting a business (and a business’ employees) from bad actors.

Reading Time 8 mins

In today’s interconnected world, social media platforms have become indispensable tools for businesses to engage with customers, promote their brand, and drive growth. With the myriad benefits of social media come social media security risks that can pose serious threats to businesses. From data breaches and account hijacking to reputational damage and regulatory compliance issues, the risks associated with social media platforms are multifaceted and require proactive risk management. In fact, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) found that social media account takeover is on the rise.

In this article, we’ll explore social media security risks and best practices for securing business social media accounts. We’ll also discuss the importance of employee training for social media security. Additionally, we will look at security considerations around data privacy and user information.

Cybersecurity Risks Associated with Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms present several cybersecurity risks that can potentially impact businesses of all sizes and industries. These risks can encompass the following categories.

Account Compromise

Threat actors may attempt to compromise social media accounts through phishing attacks, malware, or brute force attacks. Once an account is hijacked, attackers can use it to spread malicious content, scam followers, or even damage the business’s reputation.

Data Breaches

Social media platforms store large amounts of user data, including personal information and behavioral data. A data breach on a social media platform can expose sensitive information about customers, employees, and the business itself. This can lead to financial loss, legal liabilities, and reputational damage.

Phishing and Social Engineering

Threat actors often use social media platforms as a hunting ground for gathering information about individuals and organizations. They may impersonate trusted entities, create fake profiles, or conduct targeted phishing campaigns to trick users into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links.

Reputational Damage

Negative comments, reviews, or posts on social media can quickly escalate and damage a business’s reputation. Social media platforms amplify the reach and impact of both positive and negative content, making reputation management an important part of social media security risk management for businesses that are active on social media.


Many businesses are subject to regulatory requirements regarding the handling and protection of customer data, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Failure to comply with these regulations can result in significant fines, legal penalties, and loss of customer trust, especially if data breaches occur due to inadequate security measures on social media platforms.

Employee Training for Social Media Security

Employee training on social media security is important for improving the overall security posture of businesses. Security awareness training programs for social media should include the following areas.

Phishing Attacks

Organizations should educate employees about common phishing techniques used on social media platforms, such as fake profiles (sock puppet accounts), deceptive messages, and malicious links. Employees should be instructed on how to identify suspicious content and verify the authenticity of messages before taking any action. These actions can help protect business social media accounts.

Sensitive Information

Organizations should emphasize the importance of protecting sensitive information when using social media platforms. Employees should be instructed to avoid sharing sensitive information publicly and to use designated secure communication channels for sensitive work discussions to improve social media security.

Data Privacy Training

Employees should be provided training on configuring privacy settings and additional security controls on social media accounts. Encourage employees to review and update their privacy settings regularly and to enable additional security features offered by the social media platforms, like two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is when a random numerical code is generated and you use this along with your password for logging in. This helps protect your social media account if someone else has your password.

Safe Social Media Practices

Promote social media security best practices in employee training, such as verifying the authenticity of accounts and profiles before engaging with them, avoiding sharing personal or sensitive information with unknown or untrusted sources, and being cautious when clicking on links or downloading attachments. One simple tool employees can use to check suspicious links is VirusTotal, which scans the link against a database of known threats.

Reporting Security Incidents

Employees should be trained on the proper procedures for reporting security incidents, suspicious activity, and/or potential threats they encounter on social media platforms. Build a culture of transparency and accountability, where employees feel comfortable reporting security concerns without fear of retribution. This is critical to improving an organization’s overall social media security.

Data Privacy On Social Media

Data privacy on social media is an important concern for businesses operating on social media platforms. Organizations can address data privacy concerns and improve their overall social media security by doing the following.

Privacy Policies

Organizations should regularly review and update privacy policies to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and to clearly communicate how user data is collected, stored, and used on social media platforms.

Obtain Consent for Data Collection

Obtain explicit consent from users before collecting and processing their personal information on social media platforms. Organizations should clearly explain the purposes for which the data will be used and provide users with options to control their privacy settings.

Monitor Third-Party Apps and Integrations

Organizations need to regularly audit and monitor third-party apps and integrations connected to social media accounts to ensure compliance with privacy regulations and data protection standards, like GDPR. Any unauthorized or unused apps should be removed and access should be revoked for unnecessary integrations. This helps reduce the attack surface area and improve overall social media security.


Encryption should be used to protect sensitive data that is being transmitted to or stored on social media platforms. Most social media platforms will encrypt data at rest, but organizations should work with their legal and compliance teams to determine their responsibilities around data security and social media. Using encryption can help reduce the negative impact to the organization if sensitive data is leaked or stolen.

Social Media Security Best Practices

To help mitigate the cybersecurity risks associated with using social media platforms, businesses should implement the following best practices for managing their social media accounts.

Password Policy

Businesses should require employees to use strong, unique passwords for each social media account. They should also require and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra layer of security. Using 2FA is one of the simplest ways to improve social media security because it can help prevent account takeover.

Organizations should require passwords to be updated on a consistent basis. They should definitely require updating after a data breach is disclosed from the social media platform. Whenever possible, use Federated Identity to reduce the number of separate passwords your employees need. Federated Identity is a set of shared principles between systems that allows you to log into one account, like your Gmail, and then use that to log into all of your social media accounts. This reduces the number of passwords in use and helps reduce the attack surface area and risk to the organization.

Limit Access to Social Media

Restrict access to social media accounts to authorized personnel only and implement role-based access control (RBAC) to ensure that employees have access only to the accounts and functionalities necessary for their roles. Limiting access to social media on company-owned systems can help protect against employees accidentally downloading malware from social media links.

Continuous Monitoring

Organizations should continuously monitor social media accounts for suspicious activity, unauthorized access, or unusual changes to account settings or posts. They should also regularly review and update privacy settings on social media accounts, security configurations, and connected applications to help manage social media security.

Employee Training and Awareness

Organizations should provide comprehensive training to employees on social media security best practices. The training should be focused on recognizing phishing attempts, avoiding clicking on suspicious links, and reporting suspicious activity. 

This training should include examples of phishing attacks via social media and simple security best practices, such as using two-factor authentication on all social media accounts, turning off name tagging in social media posts, not accepting strange connection requests, making social media posts only visible to family and friends, and not sharing sensitive information. Employees should also be instructed to use caution when they need to use public Wi-Fi and always use a secure communication method, like a virtual private network (VPN), to connect with company systems and data when using public Wi-Fi. A VPN is like a tunnel underneath a river that you drive your car through. A VPN is like a tunnel underneath a river that you drive your car through. The tunnel protects your car from the water, and a VPN protects the data traveling through it.

Mobile Devices

Any company-issued mobile devices should be regularly updated and secured. One way to manage security of mobile devices is by using mobile device management (MDM). MDM allows organizations to standardize security across mobile devices. For example, if the organization wants to block certain social media applications on the device or remotely reset information on the device when an employee leaves, MDM allows them to do this from a centralized location.

Businesses rely heavily on social media platforms for customer engagement and brand promotion. However, alongside the numerous advantages of social media lurk substantial security risks that can negatively impact the business. Simple social media security best practices, like requiring two-factor authentication (2FA), strong and complex passwords, educating employees about not clicking links in social media messages, and hardening mobile devices can help organizations protect sensitive data and their brand. Hardening mobile devices just means the software is kept up to date on the device. Unnecessary applications are removed. sensitive information is encrypted. Finally, a screen lock is added to mobile devices to protect against unauthorized access. 

Gain a Cybersecurity Education at Flatiron School

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t have the time to generate sales, manage human capital, and still manage social media security. This is why they rely on cybersecurity professionals to have the knowledge and skills to help protect their business. Flatiron School’s Cybersecurity Bootcamp can help you build the knowledge and skills to help protect businesses all over the world.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of April 2, 2024. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

About Ken Underhill

Ken has over 20 years of IT and cybersecurity experience and holds a graduate degree in cybersecurity. He's also the bestselling author of the book Hack the Cybersecurity Interview.

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