Fake executive social media accounts threaten enterprises

New research has uncovered numerous duplicative Twitter and LinkedIn accounts among Fortune 500 leaders, raising concerns about potential security vulnerabilities.

fake executive social media

Analysts at BrandProtect reviewed profiles for the 54 CEOs at Fortune 500 companies using Twitter and the 187 CEOs using LinkedIn. Of these CEOs, 19 percent were represented online by multiple Twitter accounts, while 9 percent had multiple LinkedIn accounts.

“Even carefully managed Fortune 500 CEOs can be victimized by online masquerades,” said BrandProtect General Manager Michael Kiefer. “But every duplicate account, from the CEO to the newest employee, represents a risk to the enterprise. Enterprises need to be constantly vigilant to protect their identities and reputations from becoming pawns in attacks on their executives, employees, partners, or the general public.”

Masquerading and completely fictitious social media accounts are often used by cyber criminals to give legitimacy to targeted spear phishing or whaling attacks. These fraudulent accounts can also be used to drive malware or ransomware exploits against unsuspecting individuals or enterprises.

Many major organizations have fallen victim to costly spear phishing schemes and BEC attacks this year including the Democratic National Convention, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the World Anti-Doping Agency. Individuals in each organization were fooled by a message from that seemed to originate from a trusted individual.

Some of these email-based attacks gain their legitimacy from the use of a trusted executive name, often presented with a link to one or more social media accounts. Many of the attacks rely on the use of a completely fictitious “executive” from a trusted company – to make the attack seem more legitimate, these attacks may contain links to rouge social media accounts, like fake LinkedIn profiles or Twitter handles.

BrandProtect threat experts recommend that all duplicative social media accounts be identified and validated. To reduce the risk of cyberattack, any unauthorized or uncontrolled accounts should be taken down.

Earlier this year, a Ponemon Institute survey revealed the challenges security professionals face as they struggle to prevent external attacks. Of 591 security professionals surveyed, 64 percent of respondents felt they lacked the tools and resources necessary to monitor, 62 percent lacked the tools and resources necessary to analyze and understand, and 68 percent lacked the tools and resources necessary to mitigate external threats.