Consumer Privacy & Data Breach Part I – Is It a Global Issue?

Jun 13, 2022
Ayesha Yousuf
5 min
Educational, Educational


Social Media – an array of platforms that came to life to connect people from all around the world. People started connecting throughout the globe, developing mutual interest over the course of time. As the internet and the social media platform went through tailored stages, custom build functionalities broke through and gave every user a new paradigm to explore. The world witnessed how social media became a vital part of everyone’s daily routine. But as everything has a good perspective, a bad perspective does follow along. Social media, serving as the hub of globalization, brings with it diverse types of issues that extend beyond its confines to broader concerns known as cybersecurity issues. Among the most alarming and concerning of these are data breaches and consumer privacy.

Social Media & Data Breaches: 

Over the preceding decades, the hype and usage of social media platforms have become a common tool for connectivity, business, sharing content, news, and information. 

But the extraordinary use of social media has allowed it to look into its user’s lifestyles by tracking their behavior. Social networking companies’ livelihood is harvesting users’ buyer journey and their interest in different content pages/celebrities. The way they respond to a sponsored post or what type of content they are into such as a video post allure them more or a static post? Even their characteristics. All of these piles up to form a good amount of data which these companies use to manipulate people through their advertising and cause data breaches against consumer privacy. 

About 45% of the world’s population, or roughly 3.48 billion people, use social media networks. Many connections can reveal vulnerabilities, causing severe damage if data is misused. Looking at the United States, unauthorized users hacked only 13% of American social media accounts in 2021.

Hacks often lead to malware and forced shares, tricking people into sharing their bank details or transferring money. Social media accounts hold vast personal information, attractive to third parties for personalized ads. Cyberattackers target this information, resulting in billion-dollar hacks annually.

Approaches Being Immensely Used For Data Breach: 

With the dawn of the sun each day a new case comes to the limelight indicating that a new hack or breach is causing the loss of billions or even the lives of innocent people. 

Let’s discuss some approaches that are quite common and have numerous examples, yet people still fall into the same traps and become another example. Let’s dive in!

Knowledge Discovery of Data: 

Whenever someone enters the space of social media, he/she makes an account. To activate that account the user gives the platform personal information such as their birth date, geographical location, personal interests, and in some cases the contact details also. This information is stored on the network and used for data mining. Data mining is basically where the companies used to store data and custom campaigns according to the customer’s likes and preferences. Companies use this data for breaches and have reached the extent of selling it to third-party companies without the users’ consent. This action counts as a breach of consumer privacy.

Phishing Attacks: 

A phishing attack is a method that is a common tactic that cybercriminals use. The attack lures people into providing personal and sensitive information. Often posing as a social media platform, the attacks are in the form of email or text messages. The attacker acts as a legitimate source and lets people fall into the trap. 

Attackers share sensitive information, such as bank information, credit card details, passwords, etc.

In August of 2019, Instagram went through a phishing attack. The attackers send phishing emails to users, indicating that someone has just logged into their account from another device. The email includes a link to a copycat Instagram website controlled by the hackers, designed to save all the user’s login information. It also contains a code that the email claims will confirm the identity of the user.

Fake message from Instagram, consumer privacy, data breach, cyber attack

Since the website was fake the attackers used it.CF domain (the country code top-level domain for the central country republic). But a lot of the users can’t easily identify that. 

Malware Sharing: 

Designers of malicious software aim to penetrate the host’s system, thereby granting attackers easy access to the host’s data, including email, social media accounts, and various platforms connecting the host to the world. These kinds of attacks could also lead to worse consequences such as extorting money or bank account details, along with false advertisements through social media channels. 

Social media channels are an easy delivery system for distributing malware among different people. Once the cyber attackers get access to the account the whole contact list of the host is mostly under the same attack. Resulting in another form of a consumer privacy breach.

The Curse Case Of Mia Ash: 

On January 13, 2017, a purported London-based photographer named Mia Ash started a malware campaign. She targeted people from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). LinkedIn was the platform she chose to target as it is considered to be used by professional people and establish connections for business purposes. Keeping that agenda in mind she started reaching out to people. 

She reached people out in the name of a survey regarding her photography business. To make it real she shared a document that contained micro links having PupyRAT, an open-source cross-platform remote access trojan (RAT). Further analysis revealed a well-established collection of fake social media profiles that appear intended to build trust and rapport with potential victims. The connections associated with these profiles indicate the threat actor began using the persona to target organizations in April 2016. 

The above one is the job description Mia Ash was using to lure people into the attack whereas the second job description is originally used. 

The Central Threat Unit (CTU) researchers observed these kinds of malware attacks beforehand and saved a lot of people from becoming a victim of them. 

Botnet Attack: 

Bots on social media are another common way for attackers to get access to the victim’s device. Bots on social media are automated accounts that create posts and also are automated to follow new people whenever a new term is mentioned. A large group of bots makes a botnet. These bots and botnets are a great source to steal data, send spam messages and also launch distribution of denial of service attacks (DDoS). These DDoS attacks help cybercriminals to hack the consumers’ devices and penetrate them resulting in access to their contacts and much more. 

Consumers’ Privacy – A Global Issue? 

The information stored on social media channels is vulnerable to attack, solely inducement being the network is not secure enough. Typically all the platforms existing on the internet have privacy policies that are disclaimed the purported as a waiver once users consent to them. But often these policies are hard to intercept, vaguely designed, and also difficult to impossible to implement. All the components add to make these policies pretty useless. 

Data collection is an essential part of the social media advertising model. The users are shown customized and tailored ads. These ads are customized through the data the companies purchase as a third party. 

A lot of incidents happened with social media giants which made people suspicious about their privacy.  Countless incidents occurred, some of them as follows. 

Facebook Fooled The Common Man: 

To survive in the market and make the most out of social media platforms companies buy users’ data, completely banishing the consumer privacy protocols. That data is then used to attract customers on social media platforms according to their interests and likes.

Mark Zuckerberg – the founder and CEO of Facebook has unlimited times alleged for data breach cases. Facebook promised to protect the users’ data but failed to do so. 

In 2014 Facebook announced that they are acquiring WhatsApp – a very strong social media network that people use to communicate with their loved ones, friends, and people who matter to them. One of the main reasons WhatsApp also is a top-rated app for users is because of its privacy policies i.e end-to-end encryption.  In 2012, the founder of WhatsApp stated that [w]e have not, we do not and we will not ever sell your personal information to anyone.” 

On this, the EPIC urged that this merger should not be done. But later it was approved after both the companies promised that they would never breach their consumer privacy policy, it will remain intact. But in 2016 Facebook and WhatsApp came forward with some former changes completely denying their statements published at the