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Simple steps to keep your social media accounts safe

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) released a free guide to help small businesses using social media platforms securely. This comes as the number of cases involving hacked accounts has skyrocketed.

While social media offers a powerful tool to expand your customer base and brand awareness, ASBFEO’s Bruce Billson warns, it’s crucial to take cybersecurity precautions. “Digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way small businesses connect and sell to their customers. Yet, when there is a problem – such as having your account shut down after being hacked – solving it can be a nightmare.”

Mr Billson said the number of cases involving a small business having problem with a digital platform has more than doubled since July 2022 (up by 127 per cent) and continues to be one of the top requests for assistance that requires a case manager to get involved. Two-thirds of the cases relate to Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, and 75 per cent of those disputes last month alone were about getting access to an account after being hacked. “In too many cases, when there is a problem, these platforms require a time and resource-poor small business to navigate the most elaborate maze of dead-ends and blockages,” Mr Billson said.

“One of the absurdities of the current situation is after being locked out of your account, you need to access your account to make a complaint. It’s the ultimate run around.”Mr Billson said the free Guide to Using Social Media Securely include tips for small and family businesses about how to reduce the risk of being hacked and steps that can be taken with the digital platforms if you are.

The free guide is available on the ASBFEO website at www.asbfeo.gov.au/sm-securely 

“We have helped many small and family businesses across various digital platforms to resolve their disputes, and this guide includes some simple cyber security tips and practices for small businesses to protect themselves,” he said. “It is important to not overlook important security elements when operating on social media, including how to reduce the risk of your social media accounts being hacked.”

When setting up a business on a digital platform:

  • Create your profile with the level of privacy and settings you are comfortable with, and that you can easily control and manage. 
  • Make sure you can remove other users or profiles connected to the account and can control their level of page access.
  • Confirm you can turn ads on or off and can remove or update advertising payment information.
  • Have your account/s set up so the platform can communicate with you either via an app, text message or email to help with account recovery (should you need it).
  • Create a separate payment method that is only used for your social media account/s and set a limit on spending.
  • Keep your account details in a safe place. If your account is hacked and/or disabled, you may need to provide the URL for all your pages/accounts; the phone number and email address; and a screenshot of your page/s with the business name.
  • Consider expanding your business online presence to more than one platform. If your account is disabled, you can use the other platforms to continue to operate and keep your business going.

“Treat your online business security like you would a shop, factory or your home,” Mr Billson said. “You wouldn’t give a person you have just met the keys to your business or your house, so only give access to your business account to trusted individuals. And remember not all users require full admin access. If you are hacked, report your issue immediately to the platform and make sure you are actually communicating with the platform and not the hacker.”

Mr Billson called on digital platform providers to improve their dispute resolution services. “Big Tech must do better by its small and family business customers that depend on them,” he said. Some of the delays experienced by small businesses have lasted many months and having someone else access and control their account is devastating for their business and their reputation,” he said.

“Small businesses watch helplessly as the financial and emotional damage occurs in real time with no ability to stop it. They lose customers and money, if a credit card linked to these accounts if being used by the hacker or the hacker uses the account to access and harm other customers. We are urgently calling for codified, dependable and easy to use internal dispute resolution processes to be adopted by these digital platforms that can get problems resolved quickly.

“They need to be backed up by a real person you can speak to when a problem can’t be easily fixed. And this can be supported by a promoted external dispute resolution service, such as ASBFEO, for small businesses that can’t gain a satisfactory outcome when working directly with the platforms. 

“Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Amazon, eBay, Shopify or any of the many other digital platform providers, across the board there is an urgent need for them to do better by their small and family business customers.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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