Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Security and Social Media
The 2008 Presidential Election unlike any other before it contributed to the meteoric rise and widespread use of social media. Some of its uses being the targeting, advertising and in some cases the misrepresentation of information to United States citizens. Set against a back drop of social and cultural changes which have both widened and highlighted long-standing divides: hackers, cyber-criminals and everyone else in between are racing to fill the void with agendas of their own.
Longstanding and relatively safe topics like Education, and to some extent Immigration, have become both wedge and security issues. Whether the debate centers on assistance to low-income, inner-city-residing minorities, public loan forgiveness to borrowers often part of the same community, or pathways to citizenship to those seeking uniquely American opportunity, what has been clear is that the dissatisfaction of voters across the board for whom these issues are critically important, is being weaponized to sow discord by bad actors.
Data Collection and Privacy
The massive collection of endless data points by government and big business has as of late appeared in starker relief to the public. And now, According to a survey conducted by research firm IPSOS, (66%) sixty-six percent of people knew very little about how much data companies (and by extension hackers, cyber-criminals who later pilfer said data) held about them, or what was done with it.
Additionally, only about (33%) thirty-three percent had a fair amount of trust in companies and government using it in the right way. These statistics are only part of what creates fertile ground social media-based disinformation campaigns that are cultivated and leveraged for maximum effect by bad actors for nefarious purposes.
For instance, the ‘social media trap’ set by foreign agencies has been met with widespread success in recent years. It essentially is a mechanism by which people get trapped based on some action taken; likes and comments on their post by unknown people. If aimed at a military target, crucial information about logistics, operational details, training institutions, details of weapon ammunition, troop movements and other vital information is collected.
Threats to Business and National Security
Data can be harvested from a cornucopia of sources for both political and business use. Some of the most well-known sources being your web-browser, ride-sharing or peer-to-peer funds transfer applications, even the dark web itself. With a dearth of federal regulation that addresses how political campaigns or businesses collect, use, and share data: there are little to no safeguards that effectively stymie and/or prevent the targeting and subsequent exploitation of the public for ill-suited purposes by bad actors.
Consider for a moment that during the 2016 Presidential Election (and for 2020) employees from top social media companies were embedded in both Republican and Democratic campaigns as “digital strategists”. Now, while this in and of itself is one hundred percent part of our democratic process, it also to some extent widens one particular divide: the creation of micro-targeted ads sent via social media aimed to isolate specific voters.
Sound familiar? Well that is because while for completely opposite purposes bad actors employ the same tactics with the intent to further fracture an already polarized public.
Cyber-threats, activity and attack are top of mind within the business community. In a report where over one thousand businesses from Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, United States, Canada, Asia Pacific, and Africa where surveyed on the security climate as part of a 2019 “Global Cyber Risk Perception” survey, these were some key takeaways:
Seventy-nine percent view cyber-attacks as a top five priority
Only 17% of executive leaders and board members spent more than a few days focusing on cyber risk
Top two attack zones: Cloud Computing and IoT Devices
What does this all mean for the future of our collective security? Well, where you stand largely determines where you sit, but these few things are for sure:
The sheer financial cost of cyber-crime is already in the billions of dollars – and rises year over year.
We need to understand who our adversaries are, where they’re located, and what their capabilities, plans and intentions are.
The dividing lines are at best fluid, public debate is fever pitched, and threat actors are fast gaining ground.
Time is of the essence; we truly need all hands-on deck.
Wayne D. Shrowder
Nine Mile Security Group
***This piece also serves as part of a published article on tech-site 'BleepingComputer', (see links below), and commentary to joint research done by cybersecurity company, Advanced Intelligence, and Nine Mile Security Group.***
Link to full article:
Link to full research: