Executives face mounting cyber threats on social media, survey finds 

Organizations are not protecting executive accounts sufficiently despite the potential for enormous damage if they are breached, IT and security professionals said 

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Enterprises are investing more in executive communication programs but the cybersecurity of their executives' social media accounts remains a main concern, according to findings released Thursday.  

One out of every three enterprises are most afraid of impersonation or fake accounts, and a quarter of respondents are most worried about the possibility of an account takeover, according to the survey by US-based SafeGuard Cyber.

In the event of an account compromise, 70% of respondents said their company would suffer brand or reputation damage, and half of respondents predicted risk to shareholder value. Yet despite awareness of cyber risks, 43% of enterprises polled said they currently have no protective oversight of executive social media activity, the company said. 

As for who bears responsibility for protecting executive accounts, 29% percent said the CISO, 28% said Marketing/Comms; 20% outsourced the function to an agency; 16 percent said multiple owners, and 7% did not know.

The survey was conducted online in December 2020 among 600 senior enterprise IT and security professionals at companies with annual revenues between $100 million to $1 billion+, according to SafeGuard. 

"The organizational risk exposure from bad actors breaching executives' social accounts is high and getting worse every day. We were surprised to see some of the results of this survey, as they demonstrate a clear understanding of the risks, but a lack of substantive action to mitigate them," said Jim Zuffoletti, SafeGuard's CEO and co-founder. 

"Organizations typically have a robust infrastructure to keep hackers and other bad actors out of their company systems, but often ignore third-party communication apps and social media accounts. Executives' accounts can be manipulated by takeovers or fake accounts, leading to tremendous brand damage, a loss of proprietary information, stock manipulation, and more. This should be a wake-up call to companies that their executives' accounts have to be protected as dearly as their company networks and data."       

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