Friday, October 28, 2016
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Brands Beware: Social Media Hacking A Growing Problem
This January 2015 photo provided by Proofpoint shows Devin Redmond, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Proofpoint via AP)
Online security Q&A with Proofpoint's Devin Redmond
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The rise of social media has given brands a quick and efficient way to communicate with consumers.

But hackers are using those same channels — such as popular public Facebook pages and Twitter accounts — to dupe their followers into clicking on links that spread viruses or steal login information for banking and other accounts. In addition, other people will post on brands' social media accounts and use them as sounding boards for various causes or hate speech usually unrelated to the company, which could reflect poorly on it. As a result, businesses face a never-ending task of policing their social media accounts.

That's where Proofpoint comes in. The Sunnyvale, California-based company, best known for protecting email communications, expanded to social media security about two years ago. Services include finding accounts using a brand without authorization, keeping legitimate accounts safe from hacking and stopping employees from inadvertent disclosures.

Devin Redmond, Proofpoint's vice president and general manager for social media, spoke with The Associated Press recently about the company's growing presence in social media services. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Why is this a key business for Proofpoint?

A: Social networks are growing. It's not a question of whether they're going to be a predominant communication channel. They are. But the amount of good communication is only growing at about 140 percent and bad content like spam, malware and phishing is actually growing at north of 600 percent. Social media is a smaller part of our business, but it's growing much more quickly than others.

Q: Why is there so much "bad communication" on social media?

A: A bad actor using email is doing things one to one. I have to send thousands of messages in the hopes of getting one person to take an action that I can take advantage of. But if I put a piece of spam on a popular Twitter account or Facebook page, my ability to reach an audience of one million, two million, simply depends on how big of a reach that account has.

Q: Many people know better than to click on links or attachments in sketchy emails, so why do they do it on social?

A: People are more trusting on social than they probably should be. They think there's a more personal connection, because you're interacting with somebody and it seems more real time. They see a link and think, 'What's the worst that can happen?' But the worst that can happen is pretty bad.

Q: Why is it so important for businesses to keep a handle on their social media accounts?

A: Social media allows you to connect in a way that you haven't in the past. It's very organic. But if the bad guys take advantage of it you lose the good part of it.