Lady browsing social media

Are popular websites such as social media platforms secure enough to protect sensitive user information against data breaches?

Social media is a significant presence in our lives.

As of July 2021, there were nearly three billion active Facebook accounts, over 2.2 billion active YouTube (Google) accounts, and nearly 1.5 billion active Instagram accounts.

Social media platforms are often the centre of controversy when it comes to user data and privacy. WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, faced a storm earlier this year over changes to its privacy policy. Despite the backlash against WhatsApp, there appears to have been little real terms impact on the number of people using the popular messaging platform. As of July 2021, WhatsApp still had over 2 billion active users.

Why is data privacy so controversial when it comes to social media?

When we talk about data privacy and social media, the context of the conversation often surrounds the data social platforms collect from us and how they use it. This conversation has reared its head again in the past 18 months amidst calls for social platforms to require users to submit a verified ID. If people find it spooky that social media websites always seem to know what websites they’ve visited, how will they feel knowing their passport or driver’s licence is being held by them?!

Are data breaches a more significant concern?

All the controversy surrounding social media platforms’ use of our personal data may be a handy smokescreen for cybercriminals.

After all, data breaches in which users’ personal data was stolen occurred at Facebook in 2018 and again in 2021. The 2018 breach saw 2.2 billion people affected, meaning nearly all Facebook users’ accounts at the time were involved.

Elsewhere, Twitter was affected by a significant data breach in 2018, which saw users’ email addresses and online data stolen. In addition, MySpace (remember that?!) was hacked in 2016, while Tumblr suffered the same fate in 2013.

Yet, unless you closely follow the news, you may not have heard about all – or any – of them. But you probably know a little about the latest challenge to how a social platform uses your data!

Why do cybercriminals love hacking social media platforms?

Simple – because of the volume of data available.

The old adage of “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product” rings true here. As well as being “the product” for social media platforms who wish to use your data profile to cash in on you through showing you relevant adverts, you’re also “the product” for cybercriminals who can do significant damage, even if they “just” get their hands on your email address.

In hacks like the two Facebook incidents mentioned above, where all users’ personal data was stolen, criminals could get their hands on everything you share with Facebook. For some people, there will be little more information other than their email address, password, and contact list. For others, it might include their phone number, where they live and work, and even their credit card details if they’ve made a purchase through a social platform.

To cybercriminals, this is all highly lucrative.

Are social media platforms secure enough?

Social media platforms are probably among the most secure websites around. The scale of the opportunity that comes from a successful cyberattack on a social media platform is such that it’s only natural they will be targeted more often. In turn, as the biggest and most popular social media platforms typically have far higher user numbers than practically every website other than perhaps Amazon and Netflix, successful cyberattacks will always be significant in scale.

The question is perhaps less whether social media platforms are secure enough but more about the data we share with every website we use.

Staying safe on social media (and online!)

Remember, cybercriminals can only steal the data that’s available.

We all know someone on Facebook who shares their phone number, Snapchat ID, Instagram handle, email address, home address, and pictures showing their car registration number. Is making all that data publicly available necessary? Unless you’re an “influencer,” is it essential that people can find you on all platforms where you have a presence?

Of course, cybercriminals can still potentially do significant damage with your email address and password if you use the same password everywhere online. Still, dealing with a hacked account is slightly less stressful than calling your credit card company because someone spent £4,000 in your name!

Think twice about the data you share online. While you can’t legislate for cybercriminals attacking a social media platform or any other website, you can ensure the impact of such action on yourself is minimal.

Have your personal details been exposed due to a data breach on a social media platform or any other website? If so, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact LawPlus today for a FREE assessment of your data breach claim.