Limited security and a lack of
strict regulation regarding social media-related cybercrime have allowed
hackers to make a yearly profit of at least $3.25 billion from these platforms
alone, says
a study by Dr. Mike McGuire, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University
of Surrey.

Social platforms rank first in
channels exploited by hackers to circulate malware, to sell hacking tools, for
money laundering and drug sales. At a very low cost, hackers manipulate these
networks to build connections, then target millions of account holders with
cryptomining, malvertising and phishing campaigns. They disseminate malware
through chain exploitation to cripple corporate networks and compromise
proprietary information.

Just between 2015 and 2017,
social media-affiliated cybercrime reports in the US increased at least
300-fold. Mostly disseminated through apps, adverts and links, cryptomining has
grown by almost 600 percent and become very popular on Twitter and Facebook.

In his research, McGuire came
across cybercrime-as-a-service tools for sale on Facebook, YouTube and
Instagram. The availability of these tools online means criminals no longer
need extensive hacking skills, as anyone can now buy a botnet or an exploit. As
many as 40 percent of social platforms had some sort of hacking tools for sale.

“Facebook Messenger has been
instrumental in spreading cryptomining strains like Digmine,” said
Dr. Mike McGuire, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey.
“Another example we found was on YouTube, where users who clicked on adverts
were unwittingly enabling cryptomining malware to execute on their devices,
consuming more than 80 percent of their CPU to mine Monero. For businesses,
this type of malware can be very costly, with the increased performance demands
draining IT resources, network infections and accelerating the deterioration of
critical assets.”

In an age when even companies
rely on social media to promote their products and services, or to simply reach
out to their fan base, “social media is acting like a Trojan horse into the
enterprise, while putting users at risk of scams and fraud,” reads the Social
Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy report. Research found that social
media led to one in five companies getting infected with malicious software.