The facts are starting to surface regarding the recent attacks against Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft – all of which have been linked to Chinese interests. According to one recent report, the attackers selected employees with access to proprietary data, determined their social networking friends and then hacked into those accounts. Once in control of the friends’ accounts, the attackers (posing as friends) sent their actual targets instant messages with links to sites that installed spying software on their computers.
This sort of criminal strategy could be applied to any company – large or small. In fact, it is much easier to assume that the president of a large middle market firm has more valuable intelligence on his computer than a strategic employee at a larger company. Having knowledge of this sort of attack is important given the overall number of attacks against business has been increasing. According to a recent CSO Survey, 37% of businesses polled have seen an increase in attacks during the past 12 months.
One sure way to reduce the risk of a corporate attack is to limit social networking access to those individuals in marketing or sales who have a corporate reason to go to those sites. Even those individuals should have proper training so that they would know, for example, not to click on links that have strange URLs or link to content that does not serve a distinct corporate purpose. Also, try hard to avoid clicking on an image. It may be hard to do. Our propensity to click on whatever online content we see is a habit not easily kicked.