Cyber Hackers Generate $3.25 Billion Annually From Social Media Crimes

With the advancement in tools available to cybercriminals, social media-enabled hacking has grown by more than 300-fold in recent years.

These and many more discoveries were made by Dr. Mike McGuire, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey who undertook a six-month study by Bromium for the publication, "Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy".

Some key findings from his research include:

· Social media-enabled cybercrimes rake up more than $3.2 billion per year

· One in five organization experiences malware through social media

· In the US, reports of cybercrime through social media grew by more than 300-fold between 2015 and 2017. The same quadrupled in the UK between 2013 and 2018

· Approximately 1.3 billion social media users have been affected with a data breach within the last five years

· Four out of five top global websites hosting crypto mining code are on social media

· Enterprises affected by crypto-mining malware have doubled within a year

· Social media platforms have 20% more methods to deliver malware-enabling content when compared to other forms of digital media


Crypto mining is the newest form of online threat that compromises the user’s device, to launch attacks and “mine” the online money.

The incidence of cryptomining has increased from 400% to 600% since 2017. Majority of these attacks originate from social media platforms.

In fact, from the top 20 global websites that host crypto mining malware, 11 are detected to be social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Adverts, apps, and links are the prime mode of delivering malware on social platforms. It is estimated that the cybercriminals earn $250 million per year through these illicit methods on social media platforms.

The report highlights that malware enabled adverts often appear innocent to the viewers. However, they are often extremely harmful and succeeded in delivering malware as soon as they are clicked.

Another popular process of spreading malware over social media is to hijack trustworthy accounts. In one case, the hackers gained control of UK-based retailer Matalan’s Twitter handle and changed it to resemble Elon Musk’s profile. Tweets were then sent out to the followers asking for a small bitcoin addition for a ‘reward.’ Unfortunately, those who donated got nothing in return!

Just like the public has quickly embraced social media, criminals have also been quick to understand how to use the platform to facilitate their criminal intentions. Financial frauds are a common occurrence on social platforms and generate $290 million in revenue per year.
"Social media companies must take a much more active stance against the activities of cybercriminals exploiting their platforms.", explained Bromium study. Adding further, More must be done to clamp down on this activity to protect users and their data."
Social Media Hacking Economy Generates $3.25 Billion for Crooks Each Year
Photo: Bill Hinton / Getty Images

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