Social Media: How to Steer Your Family Clear of Cryptomining Malware

It’s fun to jump on our favorite social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn and know we can quickly check in with friends and family, discover interesting content, and instantly connect with colleagues worldwide. The last thing on most of our minds when tapping our way into these familiar online communities is being the target of cybercrime. 

But it’s happening more and more.  

Last month, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) described popular social media sites as “goldmines” for malicious attacks. The FTC revealed that more than one in four people who reported losing money to fraud in 2021 said it started on social media with an ad, a post, or a message. More than 95,000 people reported about $770 million in losses to fraud initiated on social media platforms in 2021. According to the FTC, those losses account for about 25 percent of all reported losses to fraud in 2021 and represent a stunning eighteenfold increase over 2017 reported losses. 

Dark Web Goes Mainstream

The social environment is a magnet for bad actors because people of every age and country flock there each day. The constant flow of conversation and content—and more importantly, the climate of trust—makes social networks juicy targets for cybercrime.  

The biggest motivation? The emerging digital security threat of cryptojacking (aka illegal cryptomining). Cryptojacking is illegally accessing another person’s computer power to mine cryptocurrency. Cybercriminals do this by getting a victim to click on a malicious link delivered via direct message, a news story, or an ad. Once clicked, that link loads crypto mining code on the victim’s computer or leads them to an infected website or online ad with JavaScript code that auto-executes once it’s loaded in the victim’s browser. Often the malware goes undetected, and the only way a victim might know their system has been compromised is that it may start performing more slowly.    

The Fallout 

While bad actors use social media platforms to distribute cryptomining malware, they also spread other malware types such as advertisements, faulty plug-ins, and apps that draw users in by offering “too good to be true” deals. Once clicked on, the malware allows cybercriminals to access data, create keyloggers, release ransomware, and monitor social media accounts for future scamming opportunities.  

Protecting Your Family  

Educate your family.

Be sure your kids understand the risks and responsibilities associated with device ownership. Consider putting time aside each week to discuss crucial digital literacy topics and ongoing threats such as cryptomining malware. Consider a “device check-in” that requires each person in your family to “check off” the following security guidelines.  

Use comprehensive security software.

To help protect your family devices from viruses, malware, spyware, and other digital threats entering social media sites, consider adding extra security to your family devices with McAfee Total Protection. 

Avoid sharing personal information online.

Avoid posting home addresses, full birth dates, employer information, school information, as well as exact location details of where you are.  

Keep software and operating systems up to date.

Install software updates so that attackers cannot take advantage of the latest security loopholes.  

Use strong passwords.

Select passwords that will be difficult for bad actors to guess and use different passwords for different programs and devices.  

Pay attention to device performance.

For a virus to solve cryptographic calculations required to mine cryptocurrency requires an enormous amount of computer processing power (CPUs). Cryptojacking secretly consumes a victim’s processing power, battery life, and computer or device memory. Look out for a decline in device processing speed. 

Avoid connecting with people you don’t know.

Be careful when accepting friend requests, direct messages, or clicking on links sent by someone you don’t know personally. This is one of the most popular ways cybercriminals gain access.  

Verify known friend requests and messages.

Be discerning even when a known friend sends you a second friend request claiming they’ve been hacked. Search known names on the platform for multiple accounts. Cybercriminals have been known to gather personal details of individuals, pose as that person, then connect with friend lists using familiar information to build trust with more potential victims.  

Report spam and suspicious accounts.

Be sure to report any fraudulent activity you encounter on social platforms to help stop the threat from spreading to other accounts, including friends and family who may be connected back to you. 

New scams and more sophisticated ways to steal data—and computer processing power for illegal cryptomining—surface daily. Staying in front of those threats and folding them into your family dynamic is one of the most powerful ways to give your kids the skills and security habits they will need to thrive in today’s digital world.   

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