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  • Lori Carol Maloy

The Social Media Swamp: Who Are Those Black Hat Hackers and What do They Want?

Hackers are everywhere on social media. And who are these people anyway? Do they sit in their grandmother’s basement eating Cheetos and sipping diet soda donning thick black-rimmed glasses? Or are they wealthy businessmen who moonlight as hackers while dipping handmade pita chips into organic Hummus, all the while sipping on a homemade batch of Kombucha? Maybe they live in a far off land speaking a language we’ve never heard of. Whoever they are, it seems they crawl out of the woodwork and re-friend me when I least expect it.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know I’m old school. Comfort for me is using a landline, knocking on someone’s real door, and holding merchandise in my grubby little hands before I walk (masked) to the checkout counter and pay by cash or credit card. I wasn’t even on social media (not one) until last November after a writer’s conference when I was floored with, “It would be highly unlikely for you to ever get a book published without a social media presence.”

Stunned, I had to mull this shocking news over for a few weeks before I was dragged kicking and screaming across four social media platforms, leaving me scarred and battered. With additional prodding, I relented again and created two websites and two blogs. It seems life has changed drastically since the 90’s. I’m exhausted just sharing this information with you.

During my first experience of getting a social media account and editing my bio, I felt like Little Red Riding Hood creeping through a big bad forest without even a basket to protect myself with. Hackers and weirdos came out of the computer wires and crawled across my screen friending me, emailing, and direct messaging me with all kinds of requests. Totally freaked out, I wondered, “Who are these people and what do they want from me?”

Someone on a documentary explained that wandering around the internet can be like walking through a mall parking lot alone and unarmed in the middle of the night. Scary stuff. Turns out, some of these folks are looking to prey on desperate, single women and they try to internet date them in order to gain money, information, and have other unknown agendas.

Once I got on Facebook I was constantly being friended by strange looking men, and women, in varying poses of perceived desirability (which weren’t really working for them) or I was reading about someone who’d been hacked. If I had a dollar for every forward I was begged to forward, I’d be rich by now. Forget those pyramid schemes. But alas, when will we realize there are booby-traps within those forwards.

Wondering what was happening and why these bots or hackers were friending me and hacking other people’s accounts, I dove into reading articles about these finger-tapping hooligans and learned so much about their deviant ways. It turns out these folks creep through our social media feed scanning our photos looking for any tiny morsel of information they can use to hack into the companies we work for, or our own company, and will stop at nothing to steal our passwords, personal information, or just plain stalk us for the fun of it. These new hackers make the old email phishing slick look like child’s play.

I’m learning to scan these would be frieders and followers, and delete the bad guys, but sometimes I still get it wrong and friend or follow a black hat hacker, a bot, or a creepy predator. At least my heart doesn’t beat out of my chest anymore when I get one of those weird direct messages. “US government sent you money … I’ll help you get it.” Or whatever other message they think I might fall for, all of it written in broken English as they drone on and on refusing to stop until they are blocked. Do people really relent?

It seems we cannot move forward without social media and yet it holds so many lures and traps and sharp curves, and we never know who’s just around that sharp bend in the road waiting to hold us up with the letters on the keypad instead of a loaded gun. Getting to us has never been so easy. Even the social media gurus are watching, and super computers know everything about us; they manipulate us to purchase items we don’t want or need, and sell us to the highest bidder as a salable product without us even realizing it. With our information being sold and resold many times over, as well as hackers breaking into companies and stealing our passwords and information, a lot of our information is already floating around out there without our knowledge. YIKES!

Experts say to never reuse a password, change them often, and make them weird and long, using both upper and lower case, as well as other markings, and never click on a phishing link, and never forward anything that has been forwarded to you. As long as we unknowingly respond by playing their game, hackers will continue to hack. Social media is just too lucrative for them. It’s hard to comprehend how our lives could be totally changed by a click of the keys, but it can. Are we using social media or is it using us? So be careful out there, folks. The wolf is real.

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