LinkedIn: Personal data first stolen, then sold

LinkedIn: Personal data first stolen, then sold - Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

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The data of a business network is also interesting for cyber gangsters: other companies are deceived with stolen contact data and profiles or the data is used for BCE mails - business email compromise. This is how users and companies can protect themselves.  

Almost everyone who is looking for a new job is probably familiar with this situation: a headhunter writes to you on LinkedIn and the job offer sounds interesting. So you are quickly tempted to send your CV to the supposed headhunter without much thought. After all, speed is required when looking for a job. But beware! Japanese cybersecurity provider Trend Micro investigated the business network and its new study found that fake profiles trying to steal your data are now more common.

Fake linked-in profiles as an attack platform

🔎 Hypothetical scenario of a compromised LinkedIn account of a legitimate user (Image: Trend Micro).

Fake profiles fishing for data from unsuspecting users are becoming a growing threat on LinkedIn. For example, in September 2022, North Korean Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group Lazarus targeted macOS users looking for jobs in the cryptocurrency industry. The attackers sold the data they collected to cybercriminals. The social network then added new security features. However, due to the complexity of the platform, it is still difficult for LinkedIn to adequately protect each user from threats. It is therefore up to the individual to protect their own data from unauthorized access.

What can users do against data theft?

  • The first rule is: Avoid, under all circumstances, posting sensitive data or personally identifiable information such as e-mails, telephone numbers or addresses in a publicly visible manner - for example via the summary of the user profile. It's also a good idea to adjust visibility before sharing posts. Clarify ahead of time which posts should be seen by followers, connections, and non-connections.
  • Another obligation for users is to find out exactly about their employer's social media guidelines and the consequences of any violations. Such policies include, for example, measures to ensure compliance with laws and regulations, as well as the current plans for protecting privacy and managing security incidents.
  • Furthermore, users should only pass on information that they actually consent to being published on the Internet. To ensure this, users can adjust user profiles and privacy settings at any time to limit the amount of publicly available information.

What protection obligations do companies have?

  • Companies also have an obligation to protect the data of their employees. First and foremost, it is advisable to develop and implement clear guidelines for your presence in social media. In addition, it should be determined which company information and/or data may be posted publicly. These policies may vary by role, as employees handle information of varying importance and sensitivity to the Company. Higher positions in the company require more restrictive policies due to the wider access to information. The guidelines to be implemented must clearly regulate the limits, data classifications and legal requirements for those affected.
  • It's also important to regularly review scenarios for account, profile, compliance, verification, and incident management so employees know what to do in an emergency. Designate a contact that employees can contact if they find fake accounts impersonating legitimate employees or company roles.
  • In addition, multi-factor authentication (MFA) should be used as a standard for all business and personal accounts. Good password management software also helps to prevent data theft. Of course, it is important never to use the same password for different channels and applications.

When companies and users work together and follow standard best practices to protect their privacy, cybercriminals are just fishing in the dark. In this way, employees can actually use their time on LinkedIn productively without having to fear that private or company data will be sold on the dark web tomorrow. According to Richard Werner, Business Consultant at Trend Micro.

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About Trend Micro

As one of the world's leading providers of IT security, Trend Micro helps create a secure world for digital data exchange. With over 30 years of security expertise, global threat research, and constant innovation, Trend Micro offers protection for businesses, government agencies, and consumers. Thanks to our XGen™ security strategy, our solutions benefit from a cross-generational combination of defense techniques optimized for leading-edge environments. Networked threat information enables better and faster protection. Optimized for cloud workloads, endpoints, email, the IIoT and networks, our connected solutions provide centralized visibility across the entire enterprise for faster threat detection and response.


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