Technology and Marketing are Changing at the Speed of Light and Social Media is Driving the Change

We’ve always said here at Spry Squared, that “technology and marketing are changing at the speed of light.” Read this article and learn how and why social media is driving these changes, and how Facebook is a perfect example of that very phenomenon.


Most of us would agree that we never imagined how social media would change our lives. Even 19 year-old Mark Zuckerberg, Founder, and CEO of Facebook had no idea about the future impact of his company and social media. In a 2004 CNBC interview, he described “TheFacebook: as, “an online directory that connects people through universities and colleges through their social networks there.” He also said, “You sign on, you make a profile about yourself by answering some questions, entering some information, such as your concentration or major at school, contact information [like] phone numbers, instant messenger screen name, anything you want to tell,”

Little did he know that in 2019, Facebook would have over 2.3 billion subscribers.

Social Media Provides Uncensored Open Forum for Discussion

In a recent Wired article, Facebook is struggling to adapt to the many challenges that have surfaced due to the very nature of social media. Social media was always intended to benefit the “good of the people” by providing an open forum where users can share and express their opinion on just about any topic including:

  • Social issues
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Politics
  • Pets
  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Sharing experiences, hobbies, interests
  • And so many more…

No one can argue that social media has brought us together. Do you really think you would have found your best friend from fifth grade without social media? It’s a great way for families and friends who are separated by miles or even oceans, to stay connected. Social media is truly connectedness at its best. Marketers are taking advantage of the reach and ability to market to specific customers on social media. And it isn’t limited to just Facebook. Other popular US channels include:

  • YouTube
  • Instagram (owned by Facebook)
  • SnapChat
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Twitter

The Dark Side of Social Media

As much as social media has benefitted society, it has also created problems that we, as a society have never faced before. Somewhere along the line it became okay to throw away our filters and say things that we would never (most of us anyways!) say to someone to their face. Today, it’s fairly common to see a lack of respect for other’s opinions, name-calling, and outright rudeness. Most disturbing of all is the trend to record and post gruesome violent crimes and suicides. Here are some examples of some of the negative side-effects of social media:

  • Cyber-bullying
  • Political divisiveness
  • Under-age children being exposed to inappropriate content
  • Horrific crimes aired either in real time or as recordings
  • Fake news
  • Unwanted advertising
  • Cybersecurity issues

Traditional Media Regulations

Traditional media such as TV and radio are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  This federal government agency oversees all communications laws and regulations pertaining to television, wire, phone, satellite and cable in the United States, including all U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The FCC has levied heavy fines to cable and phone companies, TV networks, and celebrities who have violated these laws. Among other things, the FCC regulates these issues:

  • Offensive language
  • Obscene material
  • Sexual content
  • Unfair trade practices
  • Licensing applications and violations
  • Consumer information and education
  • Other regulatory programs

As social media isn’t under any federal or local government regulation most of the inappropriate content isn’t filtered or caught before it’s posted. Social media outlets rely on their staff and public outcry to remove offensive posts. At that point, its too late—the harm has been done. Additionally, as there are no clear cut regulations for offensive or obscene content on social media, much is left to human discretion. So, what that means for users of social media is, what’s offensive to me might not be offensive to you. The attitude on social media is if you don’t like it—then leave. But human nature is never content to go with the status quo and is always pushing the boundaries. What might have been considered offensive 5 years ago, is now considered normal.


Even Mark Zuckerburg is advocating for government regulation. From the Wired interview, Zuckerberg said, “There are some really nuanced questions … about how to regulate, which I think are extremely interesting intellectually.” He continues in a Washington Post opinion piece, “I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators.” Zuckerberg specifically identified four areas for government regulation:

  • Harmful content
  • Election integrity
  • Privacy
  • Data portability

In the Washington Post, Zuckerberg also admitted that Facebook holds too much power regulating speech on the internet.

“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree. I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own. So we’re creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions.”

Social Media and Cybersecurity

Lowering the bar for what is considered acceptable behavior is just one side effect of social media. Another equally dangerous trend is the ease at which cyber-criminals use social media for data mining. Hackers regularly targeted social media such as Facebook to mine their data for users’ personal information. Hacker technology is fast out-pacing security measure employed by social media security.

Here’s why cyber-hackers love to target social media:

  • 81% of all people in the US have at least one social media account
  • 6 million social network users in the US in 2018
  • Of the 4.5 billion data records that were hacked in the first half of 2018, 56% were attributed to social media
  • A report by Gemalto showed that lost, stolen or compromised records increased by 133% in 2018 as compared to the same time frame in 2017
  • While social media breaches make up less than 1 percent of total incidents, social media has the highest number of records hacked according to Gemalto’s Breach Level Index

Gemalto’s Breach Level Index

There are many documented and reported instances of social media hacking.

Is Facebook Having a Mid-Life Crisis?

As the reach and scope of Facebook has grown, so has its responsibilities and its policies. Mark Zuckerberg has flip-flopped on many of the policies implemented to protect users, as circumstances have forced change.

In the past, Facebook asserted that they would begin to de-emphasize their news feed, instead focusing on content from family and friends. Facebook also tried to partner with other media outlets and provide a dedicated news feed, but the project was aborted. In a flip from previous policy, Zuckerberg recently announced Facebook is considering delivering a new offshot exclusively for quality news feeds. While not many details were released, it is speculated that Facebook may pay publishers directly to share their news stories.

Live Streaming of Crimes on Social Media

Another huge challenge facing Facebook is the live murders, suicides, rapes and other crimes. In 2016, Facebook invested millions of dollars in developing this live video platform. Zuckerberg said that live video “create new opportunities for people to come together.”


The current policy relies on Facebook staffers or users to report inappropriate content. With the introduction of videos, it is impossible for even Facebook employees to watch a video until it is posted. There have been suggestions that artificial intelligence could be used to help monitor videos. But even that solution is a daunting task. It takes time to train AI to recognize offensive human behavior and there are many complex nuances to human behavior. Will AI be able to tell the difference between real violence being streamed live or a paid ad for a movie trailer for an action movie?

Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg said they were “exploring restrictions on who can go Live depending on factors such as prior Community Standard violations.” 

Despite the pushback from users and advocate groups, Zuckerberg is resisting implementing a “delay” like the 7-second delay the FCC mandates for television and radio. During an interview with George Stephanopoulos, in response to the New Zealand mass shooting, Zuckerberg defended his live stream policy, stating, “It would also fundamentally break what live streaming is for people.” However, Zuckerberg did admit during the interview that a live stream delay could have prevented the wide-spread sharing of the New Zealand mass shooting.

In response to the many live suicides, Facebook has implemented a real-time suicide intervention program to help those who may be considering suicide.

What About Facebook’s Policy on Politics?

Facebook recently announced that they are making big changes in how political ads and ads supporting specific issues are presented on their platform. According to a Facebook blog posted by Richard Allan, VP Global Policy Solutions, “ We are introducing some new tools to help us deliver on two key goals that experts have told us are important for protecting the integrity of elections — preventing online advertising from being used for foreign interference, and increasing transparency around all forms of political and issue advertising.”

Further steps to be taken by Facebook include ensuring transparency for political ads:

  • All political campaigns must register and complete an authorization process before running their ads
  • All political ads will be clearly labeled including the “Paid for by” disclosure, allowing the user to see who is paying for the ad, including contact information
  • These ads will be added to an Ad Library for ease of access and review, with a “See Ad Details” for more detailed information such as how many times the ad was viewed, budget for that ad, and demographics (age, location, gender) of the viewers
  • Increased scrutiny on ads that are perceived as political but are not labeled so

What About Your Privacy on Social Media?

It’s not just Facebook where protecting consumer privacy is at risk. Virtually all social media outlets have had security breaches. And generally, there’s a good reason for that. There are no rules for social media. There is no FCC equivalent for social media. Because there are no established set of rules or regulations, and therefore no consequences there is a certain “business as usual” mindset. For years there have been reports of data breaches and a “loosey-goosey” approach to protecting users’ private information. No foul…right? In the past other institutions such as banks, retailers and restaurants have faced lawsuits when their data was breached. Now lawsuits have been filed against many social media companies in order to hold them accountable for any harm done when users’ personal information has been compromised. The problem lies not only with data breaches themselves, but with the manner in which social media platforms policies and practices don’t protect your personal information to begin with.

Did you know that Facebook:

  • May terminate your account—sometimes without providing a clear reason
  • Shares your information with third parties
  • Uses tracking cookies (whether you’re logged into your Facebook account or not)
  • Allows third parties to track your web usage (to collect data for targeted advertising)
  • Knowingly allowed and encouraged children to make unapproved purchases for on-line games using their parents’ credit card (Class Action suit settled in 2016)

In May of 2018, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was created so that there is one set of data protection regulations consistent for all companies operating in the European Union (EU). This infographic helps explain how this new regulation will help protect users in the EU. There is speculation that it won’t be too long before this type of regulation will be implemented in the US.


European Commission – General Data Protection Regulation (BDPR) Data Breach

Social Media is Here to Stay

This is by no means an article to bash Facebook or any other social media platform. Social media has really revolutionized how we communicate and isn’t going away! However, along with the good—we must also look at the not so good. It is in our best interest to learn and understand the challenges that social media has presented. Then we are better equipped to deal with them on a personal level and take personal responsibility. But we must also hold the creators and owners of these social media companies accountable for the problems that inevitably arise. And remember—this technology is changing at the speed of light!

So, what’s your opinion—should the government regulate social media? While we have no control over the future of social media, we can help you have some control over your company’s cyber security and help to protect your data. Contact the Managed IT Services experts or call 720.724.7730 to talk an experienced IT consultant today.



Why Cybersecurity Matters to Your Business

As a business owner, our tendency is to focus on what crisis we’re going to resolve today. What fire we’re going to put out first. Business coaches will tell you the importance of planning, forecasting and trying to predict the future. But, many days, reality hits you smack in the face before you even walk in the door.

All that said, there are some potential future problems that are easier to plan for and prepare for than others. One of the biggest risks facing business owners today is cybersecurity. You may think that because you’re a small to medium-sized business that this is not a huge risk factor for you. But, there are often other consequences to consider. A security breach not only affects your stolen data, but it also affects your staff’s productivity, impacts your reputation and you can potentially even be facing fines due to non-compliance issues.

But, as you read on, you will learn that hackers don’t always target just the big guys.

Malware and Ransomware

Malware continues to grow at an alarming rate, with hacking techniques becoming more sophisticated and inventive every day. Most of us have a vision of hackers sitting in a dark, little room in the back of an abandoned warehouse. While small malicious attackers certainly do exist, in some cases, state-of-the-art, network-based, automated ransomware and malware have totally removed actual humans from running malware campaigns. Not only is malware technology becoming more sophisticated—it’s becoming more sophisticated in evading detection. The technology and methodology for encryption are outpacing the technology to prevent malware. These attackers are also using legitimate technology like cloud services and internet services, such as Google and Dropbox to launch malicious attacks that are practically impossible to detect until it’s too late.

  • Avast Threat Labs reports that some Android smartphones have malware or adware already built in
  • Lenovo was preloading adware Superfish on its laptops
  • Kaspersky Lab Solutions blocked nearly 800 million malware attacks
  • Web Anti-Virus detected almost 283 million unique URLs identified as malicious
  • Our File Anti-Virus identified over 187 million unique malicious unwanted objects


How Do Data Breaches Occur?

A data breach occurs whenever information is taken or stolen from a system without the knowledge or permission of the owner of that system. As technology advances, hackers are finding more gateways into all systems, from individual users to small businesses to mega-corporations.

Many business owners may become somewhat complacent. You may ask, why would a hacker bother with us? We’re not a huge mega-corporation like Facebook or Marriot. We only have data related to our business—we don’t have client information. The true motivation with hackers is, sometimes it’s not the actual data that’s important to them—it’s what they can do with that data.

With the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), even though you may not think your information is important, hackers can use your seemingly innocent data for nefarious purposes. Often used with data mined from other sources hackers can, for example, “guess” social security numbers, passwords to bank accounts or other financial institutions. And sometimes it’s as simple as they will hold your data for ransom, demanding money to restore your data.

Clear back in 2009, researchers from Carnegie Mellon predicted:

“Information about an individual’s place and date of birth can be exploited to predict his or her Social Security number (SSN). Using only publicly available information, we observed a correlation between individuals’ SSNs and their birth data and found that for younger cohorts the correlation allows statistical inference of private SSNs.”

There are also concerns that by using this stolen data, AI will be able to mimic human speech patterns, preferences and behaviors to create more realistic-seeming phishing scams.


How Do Data Breaches Affect Consumers?

Stolen data is used mainly in targeted email phishing scams and identity theft.

  • According to 2017 statistics, there are over 130 large-scale, targeted breaches in the U.S. per year, and that number is growing by 27 percent per year. (from Accenture)
  • There are around 24,000 malicious mobile apps blocked every day. (from Symantec)
  • 100,000 groups in at least 150 countries and more than 400,000 machines were infected by the Wannacry virus in 2017, at a total cost of around $4 billion. (from Malware Tech Blog)
  • In 2017, spear-phishing emails were the most widely used infection vector, employed by 71 percent of those groups that staged cyber-attacks. (from Symantec)

Some of the Biggest Breaches

  • Facebook
    • Hundreds of millions of unencrypted passwords were visible to Facebook employees. Facebook claims that there is no evidence that this data was used for malicious purposes
    • 30 million user’s personal information was exposed in a computer network attack in 2018
    • Of that 30 million, 14 million users had their names, contact information exposed. But more importantly, sensitive information including gender, recent location check-ins and relationship status was also compromised
    • An additional 15 million had their names and contact information exposed
    • Another 1 million had their access tokens (used by users to log into their accounts without using their password) revealed
    • This attack took advantage of a weakness in a series of bugs in a Facebook feature
    • A British Analytics firm was able to access data from 87 million users without their permission in 2014
    • Facebook removed 559 pages and 251 accounts that they claim broke their spam rules in late 2018
  • Marriot / Starwood Guest
    • At least 500 million guests affected by a security breach found in 2018
    • Unauthorized breaches were discovered as far back as 2014
    • For nearly 327 million guests the breach included a combination of name, phone number, email address, mailing address, date of birth, gender, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, arrival and departure dates, reservation dates and communication preferences
  • Under Armour
    • Under Armour purchased MyFitnessPal in 2015 for $475 billion
    • Data of 150 million users of the MyFitnesPal diet and fitness app were compromised
    • The breach included users’ names, passwords and email addresses
  • Yahoo
    • 3 billion accounts were hacked in the course of 3 breaches from 2013 to 2016
    • Although Yahoo knew of the earlier breaches, it didn’t disclose the information until 2016
    • Yahoo is facing a class action lawsuit that claims Yahoo failed to protect the data of its users
  • T-Mobile
    • About 2 million users were affected
    • Data stolen included, encrypted passwords, account numbers, email addresses and billing information
    • An international group of hackers accessed T-Mobiles’ servers through an Application Programming Interface (API). Basically, an API is an access point or link to a database that allows application to “talk to each other.”
  • Wendy’s
    • In 2015-2016 more than 1 million credit cards were compromised at more than 1,025 Wendy’s locations affecting 7,500 financial institutions
    • Cybercriminals were able to install malware on Wendy’s point-of-sale credit card systems
    • Wendy’s recently agreed to pay $50 million to a group of financial institutions for their costs related to the breach
    • A consumer class action lawsuit was settled for $3.5 million

How are Cybercriminals Getting In?

According to Kaspersky Labs, in early 2018 the biggest vulnerability was found in the Microsoft Office products (Word, PowerPoint, Exel, etc.) with just over 47 percent of the total share. Other big offenders providing cybercriminal access are internet browsers at 23.74%, followed closely by Android devices at 20.68%. While some of these issues have been resolved, cyberhackers are smart and clever and always looking for new vulnerabilities.


Cybersecurity Risks

Many business owners are so busy running their company, that cybersecurity isn’t even on their radar. But statistics show that cybersecurity should be at the top of their to do lists. Not only is your business at risk for losing all your data, but you could also lose credibility with your customers/clients. A recent study by Ping Identity surveyed over 3,000 people in the US, UK, France, and Germany to analyze the attitudes and behaviors of consumers regarding data breaches.

Here’s what they found:




Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT technology is advancing so quickly that some manufacturers have either taken shortcuts or ignored vulnerabilities in their products in the rush to get them on the market. This new technology has provided hackers an open door into your systems.

So, what is IoT? IoT is simply any physical device that can be connected to the internet. Basically, that means any device that can collect information and send it and devices that can receive information and do something with it.  And as we learned earlier, the internet is the second most used port of entry for malicious attacks.

Many of us are familiar with some obvious devices such as computers, laptops, smart phones, tablets, Bluetooth headphones and speakers and baby monitors. It’s estimated that there are tens of billions of these devices across the globe. Here’s a list of other devices that are also included in IoT.

  • TVs
  • Home appliances
  • Thermostats
  • Home lighting
  • Security systems
  • Industrial sensors
  • Fitness monitors and apps
  • Toys
  • Recording devices
  • Drones
  • Smart car alarms

Why Does IoT Pose a Security Risk?

Aside from the broad risk of being connected to the internet, there are some other risks that are not obvious or well known as a data breach. All these tiny computers in these IoT devices are vulnerable to malicious hackers. These vulnerabilities include unencrypted communications, weak passwords and insecure web interfaces. Many users never change the password from the factory setting. Imagine those vulnerabilities multiplied by tens of billions!

In 2016, in order to gain an advantage over other players in the online video game Minecraft, three young men created two botnets that targeted IoT devices. These botnets hijacked and gained control of nearly 65,000 devices in the first 20 hours and grew to somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 devices. All of these hijacked devices became part of the Mirai and Clickfraud botnet schemes.

The Mirai botnet was used to cause several “distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack. A DDOS attack happens when many computers (IoT devices) act together to flood targeted computer(s) or server(s) with malware. Originally created to slow down Minecraft competitors’ servers, Mirai quickly became something much more dangerous. At its peak Mirai was able to disrupt internet service to most of most of the eastern United States. And there was concern that Mirai would be able to interfere with the 2016 election and media coverage.

The Clickfraud botnet was used to commit advertising fraud, specifically “clickfraud.” Clickfraud works by making it appear that a real human user has clicked on an ad in order to falsely generate revenue.

The Dyn botnet attack was able to disrupt internet service for major websites such as Netflix, Paypay, Amazon and Reddit.

What’s Does the Future Hold for Cybersecurity?

While much of this must seem like doom and gloom, there are steps that you as a business owner can take to protect your business from data breaches and malware. As we reviewed in this article, technology if advancing at light speed and hackers are becoming cleverer in their methodology.

Here are 5 Steps a Business Owner Can Take to Thwart Cyberattacks

  1. Recognize that size does not matter to Cyberhackers. No business is exempt from cyber-attacks. As a business owner, it’s not a matter if a cyber-attack will happen—it’s a matter of when
  2. Hire a reputable IT Security provider. Spry Squared can assess your system’s vulnerabilities, make recommendations and implement cybersecurity best practices
  3. Working with your trusted IT advisor, create a plan. Spry Squared will work with you and/or your IT manager one-on-one to craft a customized cybersecurity plan that is best for your business. Once your plan has been implemented, we monitor your systems and are able to spot abnormalities and take preventative measures. Additionally, we ensure that all data is continuously backed-up
  4. Create and enforce cybersecurity protocols within your organization. All the preparation and preventative measures you undertake will be rendered useless due to human error if untrained staff do not follow cybersecurity best practices
  5. Regular updates to your hardware and applications are a must. Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to break into a system. But they continue to exploit existing known vulnerabilities. Typically, when a vulnerability is discovered, a security patch is released to “fix” it. However, if you don’t update with the security patch that leaves an “open door” for hackers


If you’re ready to take your Cybersecurity risk seriously, contact the IT Security experts at Spry Squared. You’ve got nothing to lose if you do—and everything to lose if you don’t! Call us today at 720-724-7730.