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“The frustrating element of personal protection is how many clients look to private security following an incident such as burglary or physical harm. Being proactive about prevention mitigates that risk before it arises and helps you avoid traumatic situations.”Ben Tams, Head of Operations and Private Client Services at EOS Risk Group
Sophisticated cyber criminals have set their sights on a new target. Where traditionally hackers have attempted to steal and exploit sensitive data from big corporations, there has been a significant switch in emphasis, leading to a rise in costly and disruptive cyber attacks on wealthy individuals and their families.
In August 2019, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s own Twitter account was hacked by a group that calls itself the Chuckle Squad. His much publicised mission to increase the civility of public discourse suffered an embarrassing setback as hackers tweeted racial slurs, antisemitic messages and at least one Holocaust denial from his high profile account. Closer to home, police are currently investigating a £500,000 burglary at a premier league footballer’s mansion. Crystal Palace defender, Mamadou Sakho was away with his family, ahead of his team’s clash with Southampton, when raiders broke into his house in south west London.
Though seemedly unconnected, what the two cases have in common is the use of personal information accessed from digital devices to perpetrate a sophisticated attack on an individual’s property and their private life. And crucially, in the case of Mr Sakho, how wealthy individuals and their families need to connect the threat of cyber breaches with physical criminal activity. All too often, perpetrators are being alerted to the victims whereabouts and their prized possessions through social media posts and other public platforms. In fact, the alarm and security company, ADT, recently published their research that showed “78 per cent of burglars use Facebook and Twitter to target potential properties.”
Another crucial area of concern is how cyber gangs are gaining access to your family’s critical information. By targeting the devices of younger family members, who are much more likely to be prolific users of social media, they can quickly build a detailed picture of your day-to-day. In short, the new cyber criminals are just as likely to be targeting your child’s iPad as your executively controlled smartphone. In addition, with the overlap in the use of work and personal devices, this means that wealthy individuals – and their family and inner circle – can all play a role in helping the professional criminal conduct their “social reconnaissance”. What may be an innocent post of a purchase – a new automobile or heartfelt gift – or a place – a family holiday or business trip – can all add to the threat of being targeted by criminal gangs or individuals conducting this reconnaissance.
This article is not meant to send readers into a state of perpetual paranoia about every social media post their family makes. My aim is to raise awareness and start the process of changing the way we think – alternative thinking if you will – about the ways in which we interact online. Families need educating about the potential consequences because they don’t naturally have a criminal mindset. Being aware of how the most innocuous of activities, like posting a facebook post about a forthcoming family holiday or sharing on WhatsApp an amusing snapshot of siblings washing up can give criminals critical information – namely when the property will be vacant and the type of window security you have in your kitchen. Disturbingly, you may even be held accountable for your online activity after the fact. If a crime has been committed, certain social media activity, commonly referred to as “insta-bragging” – posting images of your holiday on photograph app Instagram – could potentially invalidate your contents insurance policy. This is due to the fact that most insurers include a “reasonable care” clause which, although generally related to making sure windows and doors are locked, will in future extend to you being responsible for what is shared on social media platforms. Examples of cases where insurance could be invalidated include someone who has posted on a public Instagram page while abroad, checking into locations such as the airport on their way to their holiday destination, or posting the date and picture of their holiday once there.
In light of these potential risks, can we realistically live without social media? The reality is, this is neither a practical or actionable approach. One only has to observe human behaviour to see the level that social media on smart devices has permeated every aspect of our society. People of all ages are inseparable from their smart phones, tablets and other devices. In fact, a study from broadbandsearch.net showed that last year the average time spent every day on social media was 2hours 55minutes – up more than 62% from 2012.
Empirically this trend seems to be increasing, particularly social media and the way we all use and interact with it. Epitomised by the rise of social media influencers and the eyewatering monetisation they achieve by maximising followers, the ability to post to the world selfies, luxury holiday snaps and prized purchases has never been more popular and certainly shows no sign of abating. One touch of a button and your post or picture is there for everyone to see.
While some people would point to the many benefits that social media brings, equal numbers would argue that it has created a generation of “digital natives” who crave instant gratification, social acceptance and online attention. Platforms like Instagram and Twitter enable this, through public profiles which allow anyone to follow and see an individual’s post. It is no coincidence that modern social media influencers have found their way onto mainstream television programmes due to the immense size of the online audience they have following their every move. But it is this “share all” social interaction that can so readily provide perpetrators with the information they need to act.
So what are the solutions? To remove the risk completely, the simple answer is for you, your family and inner circle to refrain completely from posting anything on social media and not to have a public profile. As discussed above, this is not a viable option, not just because of the enjoyment and connectivity social media may bring, but for a huge number of people it is an invaluable tool for business purposes and career advancement. A deeply embedded part of everyday life.
When I am first introduced to a family who feels they may be at risk due to their activity online, I always initially offer simple advice on the risks posed by social media and what factors to consider. Education is always the starting point. Our sophisticated approaches and technological solutions are best implemented on an initial understanding of the behaviours that need to be adopted by everyone. I find that giving the whole family – including children – advice on what information they post and when they post it, is critical to the process and starts to reduce the risk to that family immediately.
From there we undertake in-depth cyber and social media security reviews which identify the steps needed to mitigate, treat and respond to cyber and technology enabled crime. We provide detailed reviews to create a digital footprint of the client and their immediate assets to assess the risk that these may present to them. This covers all aspects of your family’s cyber and digital footprint and would include the following;
- Social Media Intelligence
- Identity Intelligence
- Darknet Intelligence (completed by a dedicated and authorised specialist)
- Email and communications intelligence
- Technical environment red teaming
Cyber social media security is an extremely important facet of meeting your family’s security needs. But it is only one aspect of an integrated security approach. It is usually implemented in conjunction with residential security, close protection or journey management services dependent on the client need. We pride ourselves on providing the broadest range of bespoke security services. Our solutions and recommendations are intelligence-led which help to ensure the you are kept safe online, at home and when travelling to unknown and potentially dangerous locations, whether that be for business or pleasure.
Forewarned is forearmed, but unfortunately security is a subject that is often overlooked and implemented only after an issue has arisen. We help you to understand and monitor the risks to your people, assets and information, so that proportionate and effective mitigation can then be put in place. As the threat to your people and property from cyber and social media reconnaissance increases, educating your family on the risks that could potentially arise from their activity should be the starting point of any integrated approach to security. And importantly, as the technology landscape evolves and changes, it is also vital to regularly review those behaviours to ensure they are relevant and up-to-date.
EOS Risk Group provides end-to-end security service provision, including risk consultancy, intelligence and analysis, audit, security operations management, protective security operations, investigations, project management, travel risk management, digital tracking, cyber security, training and crisis response.