It was almost surreal watching the events of Hurricane (and then Superstorm) #Sandy unfold as it steamrolled its way through the Caribbean and up the eastern seaboard. Even with all of our capabilities and advancements in technology, we still can’t impede Mother Nature when she decides to humble us with her power. We can and do leverage our technology to help us better prepare for disasters and ultimately deal with them after they strike. We did not have this capability for 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. Social media significantly increases our situational awareness regarding horrific natural disasters like #Sandy. It also increases the need to be aware of the inherit threats that persist within social media and how they fundamentally increase during times of disaster.
Twitter wasn’t even a twinkle in co-founder Jack Dorsey’s eye when the terrorist attacks of September 11th rocked New York and this country to its core. Now, 11 years later, the social media platform was and is leveraged to inform, communicate and mobilize regarding the northeast’s latest disaster. Tweets using the hashtag #Sandy hit critical mass during the hours between 7PM-11PM Eastern Time. Late in the evening on October 29th, 2012, as the ensuing storm set its sights on the Jersey shore, Dorsey simply tweeted “Proud of Twitter right now”. As he should be. The platform has gained significant momentum (estimated 85% year over year growth) since it was created in March of 2006. This is a rate nearly double that of Facebook most likely due to the law of large numbers. The reason for the adoption rate is quite clear, it allows for the real-time sharing of information, primarily through connected, mobile devices. Producing and consuming “subscribed” content that can also be geographically relevant has truly created a new realm for how we create and socialize life events. Nearly 350 million Tweets are exchanged daily. Much like the ecosystem of Wikipedia, Twitter and other forums can produce a tremendous amount of relevant and factual content as well as incorrect and potentially harmful information. The platform will, more often than not, self-correct with more people coming to the defense of producing factual information than those defending fiction. That being said, it still harbors people looking to take advantage of users through malicious sites spreading spam and malware in order to obtain your sensitive assets on your computer or your mobile device. During time of tragedy or panic, the strategy deployed by threat actors in these social media platforms is often even more successful and comes with an increased cadence.
Because of the platform’s simplicity, it facilitates large-scale adoption through multiple interfaces that are incredibly intuitive. A micro blogging service allows for content to be sent and consumed in micro bursts, no more than 140 characters (alpha-numeric). It truly has achieved the goal of democratizing the tools of production and consumption. For all the good things that social media sites like Twitter provide, they also can equally be used for acts of evil. Hackers and spammers will coexist in the platform and look to pounce on innocent users who are simply trying to keep tabs on emergency preparedness, evacuation notices and situational awareness about friends and family who are located within reach of the storm’s path. The bad guys know that people will be frequenting the platform for the latest news and emergency responder information. Below are some of the things you can do to protect yourself while utilizing social media as a source of content creation and consumption not only on your PC but also on your connected mobile device.
Core Security Fundamentals for Leveraging Social Media Platforms
PC Security Technologies
Mobile Security Technologies
Social media is now deeply entrenched in our “Digital Native” DNA. For hundreds of millions of users it is a critical component of their personal and professional lives. It has transformed how we interact with each other as well as how we create, distribute and consume content. At no other time in its brief history was this on display more than during the hours leading up to #Sandy arriving on our eastern shores and in the hours of our nation’s response once she left us in the wake of her aftermath. It will continue to be leveraged for good. But also know that there is a dark side to this wonderful information sharing ecosystem. Be prepared, aware and secure as you navigate its depths. When we take the right steps to protect ourselves individually in the platform, we all win because the by-product is a much safer social media experience for all users.