How cybercriminals took advantage of social media shifts in perceptions, identities

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    Discussed at the 6th Cybersecurity Weekend

    AS the physical world continues to refocus itself and find its balance, after being upset by the nearly 300 days of quarantine and lockdowns, the digital world proliferates, creating more users and more opportunities for further growth.

    At the 6th Cybersecurity Weekend yesterday the impacts of social media activities on individuals’ personal identities and companies’ brand perceptions in the Asia Pacific region was tackled.  The annual media conference, held online for the first time, was attended by journalists from 12 APAC countries.

    With the theme “Secure Your Digital Reputation”, global cybersecurity company Kaspersky aims to deep dive on how the information shared online becomes one’s reputation and how can this have a huge impact in the real world.

    “One of the most visible effect of this pandemic is how it forced everyone, from individuals to the biggest companies, to shift a lot of their activities online,” says Vitaly Kamluk, Director of Global Research and Analysis (GReAT) for APAC at Kaspersky.

    Kamluk had referenced his observation from the fact that in the region, there are over 1 billion Facebook users, 400 million are from the Southeast and South Asia. About 75 million of those users are Filipinos. Now if one considers that in the context of the pandemic, the concentration of FB users in terms of population is very dense in the region.

    Experts at the Kaspersky Security summit were in agreement that the virtual world cemented the disruptions in the physical environment, where people, forced either by the fear of the virus or the inability to move around due to a forced lock down became dependent on online means to keep connected.

    “This dependence, triggered by our need to secure our physical health, also pushed us to increase our social media use, either to connect with our distant loved ones, to give support to our community, to entertain ourselves, or to get hold of products and services that we need. Parallel to this trend is the opening of wider doors for cybercriminals to exploit,” Kamluk said going on to explain how Kaspersky made a deep dive into APAC’s digital reputation economy and reported fascinating findings.

    Precisely because of the heavier reliance of the general public on the Internet because of the pandemic, the stay-at-home situations for many also created a fertile ground for cybercriminals to seed their nasty deed. Using run-of-the-mill techniques, they created “hooks” that could make one click a phishing email, share a malicious link, forward an infected image, and more.

    Before the pandemic the Philippines was already facing cybersecurity challenges. In March 2020 Malaya Business Insight featured a Kaspersky report on the incidence of cyberthreats in the Philippines. As early as April, many companies moved employees from working in the office to working from their homes — and cybercriminals found new ways to exploit the situation:

    1. Brute-force attacks on database servers in April 2020 were up 23 percent
    2. Malicious files planted on websites increased by 8 percent in April
    3. Network attacks and phishing emails rose

    “From detecting and analyzing 350,000 unique malware samples a day pre-COVID, we currently see a total of 428,000 new samples per 24-hour window. Add the geopolitical events across APAC, the uptick on e-commerce and e-wallet adoption, the continuous remote work set-up and online learning, and the emotional and psychological stresses of the situation, the 2020 threat landscape seems to favor cybercriminals,” adds Kamluk.

    The situation for cybersecurity is not solved simply by enforcing software or applying policies. The most difficult part of the cybersecurity puzzle has to do with personal or even corporate understanding and consciousness of the individual’s or company’s role in the process. This includes the protection of reputation–something that can easily be damaged by the onslaught of fake news or social media attacks.

    This fact was highlighted by Rafizah Amran, an integrated marketing communications and public relations specialist. Amran is also a communications coach with over 20 years of experience across several industries including pharmaceutical, healthcare & nutritional consultancy, FMCG, finance, entertainment, broadcasting, tourism, aviation, and non-profit.

    Currently the Deputy Chief Marketing and Communication Officer for Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, Amran discussed managing a brand’s digital reputation while providing an optimum online customer experience in order to gain and cultivate customer preference.

    “From my experience, the digital reputation of a company is important. Our hyperconnected community made it easier for consumers to voice out their opinions in favor or against our products and services. This forced us, marketers and companies, to focus beyond closing sales and running campaigns, and to know our end-users, put customers’ experience in the middle, and involve them in our decision-making process. Most importantly, in this era of quick postings and virality, it is important for brands to be very honest and be excellent listeners,” Amran says.

    The conference also touched on the fact that 51 percent of consumers responding to a Kaspersky survey emphasized on how important digital reputation is and that buyers (like in the real world) will think twice about buying from company that figured in a scandal, especially one that involves privacy or finances. It looked into how reputation management and managing a crisis in today’s instant gratification culture should be carried out.

    Speaking based on her observations, Amran shared real-life experience with public transport users and its stakeholders–good and bad–and how Prasarana uses a range of digital tools, elbow grease, and a lot of big data analysis to craft a marketing communications digital strategy that speaks directly to its customers.

    “However, hope is in our hands as we are the controller of our online activities. Improved vigilance to protect our digital identities and assets is necessary,” Kamluk concludes.

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