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Thousands of small businesses have had their social media accounts hacked in the last three years, a new study has found.

  • One in five have fallen victim to cyber-attacks on sites such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Just 40 per cent of businesses had a dedicated social media manager, with one in four leaving it to younger or junior members of staff – or even those on work experience (six per cent)
  • Almost two thirds of social media hackers demanded cash ransoms in return for handing back control

Arguably, the greatest asset of a business is its digital and social media presence but it is also its greatest vulnerability. It can take years to build up a following, but a few seconds to destroy it with a careless tweet or post or not being able to respond quickly enough to negative comments and feedback or a hack.

New research of 500 UK SMEs from business and law specialists, Slater and Gordon revealed that one in four managers rarely check, if at all, to see what their firm was saying on social media – or what people were saying about them. Sixty per cent showed the same disregard for popular review sites such as Trip Advisor and Glassdoor. One in five have even fallen victim to cyber-attacks on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, with more than half admitting it had caused‘significant’ damage to their business as a result

Many business leaders don’t know the login details to their firm’s accounts to prevent this from happening and senior managers and owners can be inclined to leave managing social media to younger or more junior staff because of a lack of knowledge about the digital world and an assumption that they know better. A further one in four also admitted to being locked out on at least one occasion because whoever had the login details had left the company or gone on holiday.

More than a third of businesses did not have a social media policy and 40 per cent offered no training to staff about posting comments on personal accounts that could bring the firm into disrepute.

Many companies still underestimate the power of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, despite spending on social media advertising expected to hit £28billion worldwide this year.

Almost two thirds of SME managers were not familiar with the Advertising Standards Authority’s CAP code of conduct and one in 10 had fallen foul of it already.

SMEs often only identify the risk once it’s too late, after they’ve suffered a hack or some sort of serious reputational damage because of a careless or malicious post – incredibly almost two thirds of social media hackers demanded cash ransoms in return for handing back control.

Steve Kuncewicz, Principal Lawyer in Business Advisory at Slater and Gordon said: “The worst that can happen to an SME on social media is something going viral that you didn’t intend to, or if your account gets away from you and you can’t take it back – ensure that you hold that data centrally and make sure more than one person has access to it.”