What is Social Media Threat Monitoring?
For a long time, only marketers and advertisers understood the importance of monitoring social channels. They used it to mine audience data to fuel product development and marketing campaigns. But, in the past few years, the use case for social media monitoring has evolved, becoming increasingly vital for security professionals to track potential threats online.
How can security teams leverage social media threat monitoring to keep enterprises safe?
Social media monitoring entails putting an ear to the ground and listening to the millions of conversations happening on several platforms on the internet. Security professionals distill these conversations to retrieve relevant information about specific brands, issues, people, and products. The gathered data can empower security professionals to protect their organizations from social media threats.
How do social media monitoring tools 'listen'?
Most tools crawl social media sites, websites, forums, blogs, and review sites, among other platforms, and index them to make them searchable. Many platforms get crawled in real-time such as Twitter and Facebook. In comparison, others get crawled less frequently, based on their security priority status. Advanced tools do the crawling and relay real-time data collection to security teams. On the other hand, some tools use data providers to update reports.
Once the pages get indexed, you can search them using relevant queries. The queries return results you can leverage to understand what people are talking about online, helping you zero in on potential threats in real time.
The insights generated from these tools can fuel numerous security advantages, giving brands an upper hand in their cybersecurity, data protection, and privacy efforts.
Four key processes in social media threat monitoring:
1. Identification and tracking
This step involves monitoring social media feeds for critical mentions, planned actions, data leaks, doxxing, new exploits, and other online threats. All online chatter is filtered to discover credible information about potential cybersecurity events.
This step feeds the flagged social media content into workflows to build dashboards and reports. Key metrics, trends, risk insights, sentiment analysis, and a course of action get drawn from the visualization of this data.
The flagged profiles are set up in a continuously monitored channel to monitor their status. As soon as they undertake any activity that requires attention, an alert is sent out to the responsible security parties to act.
4. Notification and mitigation
This step entails alerting security professionals to potential criminal activity so that they can snuff those out. The measures include initiating profile takedowns, registering complaints against threat profiles, and setting up defenses to protect assets.
Social media threat monitoring approach: broad vs. targeted
Social media is a goldmine of information. News about every event worldwide can reach you in real-time. Often, social media is the primary platform to receive updates and critical alerts. But cybersecurity professionals need to filter data that pertains to them, their organization, and their brand. They need a swift, targeted approach to social media monitoring to sift through all the noise and distill the cybersecurity intelligence to protect their organization.
The broad-based monitoring approach refers to gathering information to enhance situational awareness about events. While this approach does help cybersecurity experts to get a general idea of potential threats, it gives little insight into how to protect against them.
Most intelligence and security teams use a more specialized, targeted method to get detailed analyses. Targeted social media monitoring allows them to gather relevant information to make informed security decisions about digital risk and executive protection.
Why do you need social media threat monitoring tools?
Today, nearly five billion people connect over various social media platforms. And this number is rising rapidly as internet and smartphone penetration increases in the developing world. It means more threat actors are using social media to forward their agenda.
Furthermore, these threat actors are harder to catch because of these platforms' relatively anonymous and social nature. Identifying these security risks while eliminating false positives by sieving through the chatter of billions of entities is nearly impossible without specialized tools.
Here's why you need to use the right tools to monitor threats on social media effectively:
● Social media offers organizations a great chance to connect with their audience in a non-obtrusive and creative way. No brand today can afford to ignore the potential of such an opportunity. But on the flip side, they must recognize the risks their increased digital footprint poses. There are over 30-odd platforms with over 100 million users. Building a feasible social media threat monitoring system that covers every forum and blogging site is only possible with automated tools.
● Many threats and security events require immediate attention and response. Using open-source intelligence tools in combination with AI and ML empowers security teams to monitor channels continuously, get quick alerts, and immediately trigger response plans to prevent or contain the threat.
What are the top security use cases of social media monitoring?
Social media threat intelligence serves as your organization's eyes and ears to the outside world. It helps build better incident response plans and reduces the reaction time for security operations. Here are some of the top ways it can aid your company:
Counterfeiting and brand impersonation
According to the Email Threat Report 2022 by Abnormal, 15% of all phishing messages sent in the first half of 2022 involved brand impersonation. Another report by Verizon said that brand fraud had risen 15x in 2021 compared to 2020. These statistics are alarming. Threat actors regularly spoof well-known brands by sending false messages and misusing a brand's name with malicious intent.
The only way to tackle this threat and prevent them from occurring is by pre-emptively striking the actors on social networks. It requires constant diligence and immediate action the moment a threat gets identified. Social media monitoring tools are best suited for such activities.
Monitoring insider threats
One of the lesser-known use cases of social media monitoring is handling insider threats. The 2022 Cost of Insider Threats report by Ponemon Institute found that insider threat incidents had increased by 44% in the last two years. Each incident cost organizations a whopping $15.38 million.
Besides cybersecurity incidents such as data leaks, insider threats include physical violence in the workplace. Disgruntled employees pose a threat long after they get fired. The social media feed of such employees can provide a crucial window into their intentions. It will equip security teams with the time and data necessary to take pre-emptive action.
Protecting intellectual property
Companies pour billions into research and development to create products that consumers love. We have patents, trademarks, and copyrights to foster a free environment to strengthen scientific acumen, technological innovation, and creativity. All these, along with inventions, research material, and designs, constitute an organization’s intellectual property. Unfortunately, IP theft is a massive operation that costs the US anywhere between $225 billion and $600 billion annually.
Intellectual property includes tangible and intangible assets. With the collaborative and shareable nature of social media content, lines of IP ownership can get blurred, especially with intangible assets. Social media can enable anyone to duplicate and distribute stolen assets, negatively affecting the reputation of the victimized brand.
Social media monitoring can help you protect your intangibles, such as trademarks, sub-brands, trade manuals, business guides, proprietary code, and other digital innovations.
Mitigating cybersecurity threats like phishing
An academic study discovered that victims accessed over 12% of phishing URLs via social media. Another report mentioned that 1 in 20 phishing attacks use social media in some manner. Phishing can destroy your brand's reputation when threat actors use your brand's name to fool your consumers. Malicious actors imitated over 265 brands in phishing attacks in the first half of 2022.
You must conduct 24/7 surveillance of all channels using the right tools to enhance your security posture and prevent phishers from degrading your brand name.
A social media crisis can occur at any time. It can be a dissatisfied customer posting negative comments or even a malicious actor. Whatever the case, you need to respond as quickly and take swift, deliberate action to contain the damage. A delayed and scattered response will not stop the crisis from snowballing into a major PR event.
To identify such a crisis, your security team must set up automated queries in the social media monitoring tool to send out alerts whenever a negative comment or complaint pops up.
How can Bolster help you monitor and take down threats on social media?
Bolster's digital risk protection solution monitors cyber threats on 14 social media platforms.
Using automation, Bolster's social media monitoring tool monitors up to 14 platforms 24/7 to detect and alert you on malicious content like phishing & scam offers, executive impersonation, and more. Manage your social media threat landscape (and other channels of digital risk) all in one platform with Bolster.