Brand protection is evolving.
Protecting your brand online means protecting your revenue and your reputation, and maintaining the trust of your customers in the face of malicious behaviour from digital criminals targeting your business.
The massive reach of the internet has completely changed the way businesses and customers communicate with each other, as well as the ways that companies drive revenue. Unfortunately, the same elements that make the internet a wonderful place for business growth and revenue potential also make it attractive to fraudsters who want a piece of your business’s profits. Brands are at risk of being hijacked at any time, and they must be prepared for anything.
In the digital world, any business is a potential target for attacks of varying degrees of sophistication. Here are three online threats to consider when protecting your brand online.
Phishing in its many forms
Phishing scandals have been rampant since the early days of the internet. Email has always been a target, but more types of attacks are revealing themselves over time.
- Spearphishing – Sophisticated targeting of specific people or companies often through malicious email attachments, usually leveraged by peppering the content with personal information about the victim to trick them into thinking the attacker is someone they know.
- Pharming – A method in which the attacker hijacks a particular domain name system (DNS) server and redirects it to a malicious website for the unknowing victim to land on.
The one we’re going to focus on here is a newer incarnation of phishing, known as angler phishing. Angler phishing refers to the act of targeting customers by creating a fake account that looks very similar to the company’s actual account and responding to their support questions.
As our relationship to the digital world evolves, bad guys continue to come up with creative ways to mess with us. Social media, with its low barriers to entry and high usership has become a hotbed for internet fraudsters. In January 2018, Twitter alone reported that there may be as many as sixty million fake Twitter accounts in the wild. Facebook reported close to 270 million on their platform.
These days, the vast majority of companies do customer service over social networks. This makes it easy for customers to Tweet their feedback and get a quick response from companies, which is great. It also means brands get lots of ‘micro’ engagements with their digital community, each one an opportunity to show off their customer satisfaction chops to the public. This practice does have its drawbacks though. It didn’t take long for online criminals to find vulnerabilities in the shared, open nature of social media customer service and capitalize on it.
Angler phishing scammers typically attack on evenings and weekends to increase their window of opportunity, and they often use social listening tools so that they can act quickly, before the actual company knows what’s happening.
Once the scam account has intervened in the customer request sequence, they will then prompt the customer to login to a lookalike site, designed to appear similar to the authentic site. The customer then enters their login credentials, unknowingly giving personal information and sensitive data directly to the scammer.
Angler phishing is estimated to have grown 200% annually since 2016.
What to do about it?
Protecting your brand online means staying a step ahead of these attacks. Keep technology on your side by using a tool that monitors online content and allows you to be notified any time your brand name is mentioned. This will make your team, rather than the fraudster, the first to know when your customers need help. You can also be alerted to any combination of words that might indicate malicious conduct involving your respected name.
2. Online Selling of Counterfeit Goods
There are many online communities where people go to sell stolen, counterfeit or other products that might be masquerading as your products. Sites like Ebay and Craigslist are important ones to keep an eye on, but forums such as Reddit and 4Chan are also chock full with this kind of commerce. Another key area to keep a close eye on is the Dark Web. It’s estimated that 96% of the content on the internet resides in areas where conventional search engines won’t take you. For companies that take brand protection seriously, the Dark Web is a necessary place to navigate.
What to do about it?
Set up Craigslist and Ebay alerts for listings that contain your brand name and other relevant keywords. Use a social media monitoring tool to create alerts for content published on forum sites such as Reddit and 4Chan. Dark Web searching is somewhat more complex. To navigate the Dark Web as efficiently as possible, you will need a Dark Web search engine to discover content, as well as the Tor browser to open links.
3. Public Brand Perception
Along with the modern forms of online brand attacks, organizations of all sizes must also leverage technology to protect their brand in the real world. Word of mouth, some say, is the original social media. It is inarguably the most trusted form of marketing there is. Approximately 92% of consumers believe recommendations from their friends and family over all forms of advertising. Internet review sites and social media serve only as amplifiers of public perception.
The internet is jam-packed with examples of social media PR disasters. We outlined a few notable ones here.
Social media and online discovery tools use natural language processing and other forms of machine learning to understand and validate the reach, sentiment and impact of their activities in various areas of the world. Such tools allow brands to understand how characteristics about the conversations about them change over time or are affected by certain promotions or campaigns. Analyzing and understanding the global conversation about brands and their competitors online allow businesses to adapt their messaging and build their reputation according to regionality, trends, and specific shifts in global economic climates.
To Wrap it up
The best brand protection strategy is to employ multiple strategies. Protecting your brand online requires a multi-layered approach. From educating your employees about email scams, to social media listening to detect keyword and brand name alerts, a strong strategy requires a technically diverse toolkit.
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