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FALSE FRIENDS – DEFENDING BUSINESSES AGAINST THE RISING TIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

By James Smith, Principal Security Consultant & Head of Penetration Testing at Bridewell Consulting

 

Each day, thousands of businesses fall victim to cyber crime, with malware and ransomware among the most prolific threats. Increasingly, cyber criminals are also adopting highly targeted attack vectors, intensifying their use of phishing and social engineering to gather information and exploit vulnerabilities by deceiving employees.

In the financial services sector, information theft is a particular target. Large or small, businesses handle incredibly valuable customer data that can be sold on the black market or be used to access valuable assets.

Sheltered by anonymity, networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn are often the first stop for cyber criminals looking to gather intelligence before closing in on their target. According to RSA, they have now become one of the fastest-growing channels for cyber criminality: over six months, it observed a 70% growth in the volume of visible fraud activity on social media.

As with other security threats, forewarned is forearmed. While it is impossible to identify every risk, understanding how social media may be misused and recognising known and unknown vulnerabilities will go a long way to help safeguard against myriad threats – including fraud, information theft and other online criminality targeted at the financial sector.

 

James Smith

Information goldmine

Any employee can be exploited as a weak link for cyber criminals. As such, it is more crucial than ever for businesses in the financial sector, and any other organisation with valuable digital assets, to create an organisation-wide, security-aware culture.

Social media platforms, email and even corporate websites can yield a lot of valuable information that may be used as part of a targeted cyber strike. For example, who works where, who reports into whom and even the language and expressions that individuals use in posts and emails may be used against the organisation.

In many cases, cyber criminals will seek to exploit human vulnerabilities and use them as the access points for attacks on organisations. Hiding behind false identities, social engineering is a particular threat on social media platforms: despite the risks, many people will accept friend requests from people they don’t even know – particularly if they are attracted to their photograph.

As well as creating new identities, cyber criminals may also impersonate real individuals, especially those who do not use or are relatively inactive on social media to gather meaningful intelligence or target others in their network.

Corporate social media too is also a potential threat that may betray useful information. This may include the type of access control system an organisation uses, the location of its CCTV cameras or its regular suppliers and vendors, which might be identified by something as straightforward as who the business likes and follows on social media – and who likes and follows them.

 

Red alert – testing resilience

Inevitably, cyber criminals will seek to exploit individual employees as a weak link. However, if they are properly trained, more alert and better able to identify security threats, they are much less likely to expose the business to attack.

Security training should be structured and ongoing, informing employees about the latest threats, what to look out for, and best practices to employ. As well drawing attention to social-media-linked threats, such as social engineering and phishing, a best-practice approach will also include the use of best-practice protection methods such as multi-factor authentication, password managers, keeping browsers up-to-date and only using reputable plug-ins.

Replicating security threats using simulations to catch the business off-guard can also be an extremely effective way to build and test resilience. Likewise, it can also serve to highlight in a safe setting just how convincing cyber criminals can be, making it an important part of ongoing security training.

One method that’s growing in popularity is ‘red teaming’, an attack simulation that sees security experts attempt to breach networks and systems, as well as use social engineering tactics via email and social media. They will also try to gain physical access to premises and devices to expose and highlight vulnerabilities. Depending on the individual requirements of the organisation, red teaming may also be goal-led and focus on bring-your-own (BYO) devices to gain access to the corporate network.

By employing a trusted and accredited third party to conduct such realistic simulations, organisations can be confident that any potential vulnerabilities are soon identified and swiftly rectified.

 

Unified defence

Like any other aspect of the digital landscape, cyber security threats are evolving at pace. While awareness building, risk assessments and audits are all important steps organisations can take to reduce vulnerability, in order to properly build up cyber security resilience, companies must assume that an attack will happen and ensure all stakeholders understand how to play their part in preventing and responding to threats.

In today’s digital society, any interactions on social media may be seized upon and exploited by cyber criminals. In becoming more aware of and alert to potentially fake friends on social media and the many other cyber security threats they may encounter, stakeholders at all levels of the organisation will be far better equipped to do their part in defending it.

 

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Business

WHY 2020 IS THE RIGHT TIME FOR FS MODERNISATION

Chris McLaughlin is chief product and marketing officer at Nuxeo

 

Few would argue against the notion that the UK financial services (FS) industry is facing many challenges as both a new year and new decade begin. Uncertainty over Brexit, the potential threat from new competitors and Big Tech brands, and rising customer expectations are just some of the challenges facing the sector.

But for every challenge, there is also opportunity. Digital banking paves the way for greater service continuity, making it easier for banks to capture and analyse data (with consumers’ permission), reduced repetition of information collection, and delivering more of what customers want in terms of products and services.

By innovating with richer and more convenient online and mobile banking experiences, and by using technology to deliver smarter and more streamlined backend operations, traditional FS providers can roll out and execute services more cost-efficiently too.

But many FS firms have been restricted in their ability to innovate and realise such opportunities, due to the outdated and inefficient systems and applications to be found in many organisations. However, with many FS workers believing that the challenges the industry face could see their company lose customers in 2020, the time is ripe for FS firms to embrace modernisation.

 

Chris McLaughlin

The 2020 agenda according to UK FS workers

Nuxeo recently surveyed 501 UK FS workers that focused on the challenges, concerns, and opportunities facing the industry. The main 2020 FS industry challenges were Brexit uncertainty; cybersecurity threats and information or data breaches; physical branches closing down; the burden of increasing regulation; competition from Big Tech firms potentially moving into FS; and competition from new challenger banks.

Perhaps of most concern to the industry is the fact that 59% of FS workers in the study felt that these challenges left their organisation vulnerable to losing customers over the next 12 months. But there are signs that FS firms are adapting to the new market reality and embracing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that can help them modernise and address such challenges.

Almost two-thirds of respondents claimed their organisations are committed to innovation, and more than half (58 per cent) believe that firms which use AI in creative ways make for more attractive employers. 68% of respondents say their organisation is already using AI for content search or is in discussion to do so, and 67% say the same for automating backend processes, suggesting that FS firms are alive to the value that can be achieved.

Transforming customer service delivery is also a key focus for AI ambitions, with more than one-third (34 per cent) of respondents saying their organisation is already trying out AI in this context. Chatbots, often used to improve the customer experience, are being used by one-quarter. Meanwhile, 41 per cent are already using AI-based capabilities for some form of data analysis, suggesting that FS providers are attuned to the need to target their activities more strategically.

 

Smarter management of data, content and information

One of the major threats to productivity is the inability for FS firms to connect and organise all the data they have at their disposal and there is a real need for smarter management of data, content and information. Compared to newer industry market entrants, established banks and FS providers have far richer data going back decades or longer. If institutions could tap into this considerable resource, it could be used to distil invaluable intelligence and insights into consumer trends, product performance, and relative account profitability.

Although organisations have all the underlying information stored within their legacy systems, it is typically very difficult for teams to access, combine and cross-analyse this data. This is because, too often, systems are unconnected, use incompatible data formats and feature considerable data duplication between applications.

In the Nuxeo research, FS providers confirm that, on average, they store information and content across nine different systems. And these systems tend to operate in silos: almost three-quarters of respondents say their organisation’s systems are not fully connected with each other.

System users who need to access information as a regular part of their jobs can be spending up to an hour a day (52 minutes) searching for what they need because it is not readily discoverable. Given that this equates to four hours 20 minutes each week per employee spent looking for information, the total time wasted across an organisation over a year is quite significant.

 

Embarking on a managed journey of modernisation

13 per cent of respondents in Nuxeo’s study believe their organisation’s inability to adopt AI quickly enough is one of the main challenges facing UK FS in 2020, so it’s something that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

But a managed modernisation journey, incorporating wider use of AI, which can help address many of the issues that are so concerning to those that work in FS, is already underway for many. Such modernisation can deliver quick wins, without incurring new risk or detracting from other critical work that needs to be done in 2020 and should be embraced wholeheartedly as the FS industry embarks on the new decade.

 

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Business

WHY MAKING MONEY ON YOUR MOBILE IS EASIER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of  Vamp

 

For Millennials and Generation Z, becoming a social media influencer is an increasingly desired career. According to a recent study, 86% of millennials want to use their social platforms to post sponsored content. It comes as no surprise. Getting paid to produce content about the products you love, why wouldn’t you?

It’s more than just a pipe dream too. While marketing used to revolve around big brands, employing big agencies to create ads, technological advancements have created a user generated content boom. Thanks to smartphones, most of us now have a 12 megapixel camera in our pockets. Brands have capitalised on this, launching campaigns that harvest user generated content, asking their customers to share their brand experiences through pictures, videos and reviews.

Social networks have normalised the sharing of content, which has helped propel this movement further. ASOS’ UGC hashtag #AsSeenOnMe has over a million entries on Instagram. Then of course there’s Apple’s incredible ‘Shot on an iPhone’ billboards, which use their user’s images to promote their phones.

Aaron Brooks

Influencer marketing takes this a step further. These social creators produce high-end content and have engaged followings – both a valuable commodities for brands. 93% of marketers now using influencer marketing. So if you’re looking to make your mark as a content creator, there are plenty of opportunities. Don’t be put off if your Instagram following isn’t in the high thousands either. Micro influencers, with their small but highly engaged audiences, have become popular among marketers and this trend will continue to grow in 2020.

Of course, brands want high-quality content to represent their brand, but if you’re keen to kick start your creator career and start making money, a smart phone and a creative eye is a good place to start. If you want to take it further, then follow these three tips for success.

 

Hone your personal brand

Rather than trying to be fashion, art, foodie and travel all in one neat package, find a niche and create a consistent message. The same goes for photography styles. If you want to be the flatlay expert, I’d recommend sticking to that at least 80% of the time.

Finding your niche and making it your hallmark will let people know what they can expect from you. It’ll make you more likely to maintain follower loyalty and help you to stand out from the crowd. Make sure it’s of genuine interest to you. You’ll need enough enthusiasm to post consistently in order to build your authority in that area.

 

Cultivate an engaged following

While a high follower count was once the most prized possession of the influencer community, times have changed. These days if you want the attention of big name brands, not only do you need a beautiful feed, but a highly engaged following. That means people who follow you, spend time with your content and engage with it.

Actively engaging with your existing audience and contributing to the larger Instagram community will help you build relationships on Instagram. This means replying with genuine

comments and pro-actively engaging by offering your own comments on other accounts.

While it might be tempting to take shortcuts by buying fake engagement or followers, it will only sabotage your efforts. Software has become increasingly effective at spotting fakes so chances are, you’ll be found out and blacklisted.

 

Maximise influencer marketing platforms

Once you’ve honed your personal brand and cultivated an engaged following, you can begin making money on your mobile. Rather than waiting for these opportunities to find you, you can take a proactive approach and join an influencer marketing platform.

These technology services connect brands with content creators. Depending on the platform, it may have a database of thousands of pre-vetted influencers who have opted-in to receive content collaboration briefs from brands. You’ll get opportunities delivered direct to your mobile and will be able to choose whether you opt in or not. This gives you the freedom and flexibility to work with brands that truly resonate with you and balance the work around other commitments.

With brands constantly searching for people who boast content creation skills, there are plenty of career opportunities in the influencer space. For those looking to make money in this space, all you will need is a smart phone, passion and creativity to begin carving a career as an influencer.

 

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