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Will LinkedIn's rampant phishing scams hamper its professional credibility?

Will LinkedIn's rampant phishing scams hamper its professional credibility?

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LinkedIn has topped the list for phishing scams in the first quarter this year, amassing over half (52%) of all phishing attempts globally during the quarter. According to the Brand Phishing Report for Q1 2022 by cyber security solutions provider Check Point Research, this is a spike from the previous quarter, which saw LinkedIn rank fifth and account for only 8% of phishing attempts. Meanwhile, DHL, which ranked first during the previous quarter, came in second and accounted for 14% of all phishing attempts during the quarter.

In a brand phishing attack, criminals try to imitate the official website of a well-known brand by using a similar domain name or URL and web page design to the genuine site. According to the report, this is usually achieved via targeted emails or text messages to individuals, redirecting users when they are browsing the web, or even through fraudulent mobile applications. The fake website often contains a form intended to steal users’ credentials, payment details or other personal information.

Omer Dembinsky, data research group manager at Check Point Software, which owns Check Point Research, said that if there was ever any doubt that social media would become one of the most heavily targeted sectors by criminal groups, the first quarter this year has laid those doubts to rest. "While Facebook has dropped out of the top ten rankings, LinkedIn has soared to number one and has accounted for more than half of all phishing attempts so far this year. Employees in particular should be trained to spot suspicious anomalies such as misspelled domains, typos, incorrect dates and other details that can expose a malicious email or text message," he added.

Other brands to make the list include Google, Microsoft, WhatsApp, Amazon and Apple.

Top brands targeted for phishing scams in the first quarter of 2022

1. LinkedIn (52%)

2. DHL (14%)

3. Google (7%)

4. Microsoft (6%)

5. FedEx (6%)

6. WhatsApp (4%)

7. Amazon (2%)

8. Maersk (1%)

9. AliExpress (0.8%)

10. Apple (0.8%)

Additionally, a 2021 study by Callsign revealed that 45% of global consumers said their trust in businesses such as banks, retailers, mobile network operators and delivery companies, has decreased due to persistent scams spoofing brand names, with over 42% of global consumers asking mobile network operators to do more to stop scammers, and a third (33%) asking the same of banks. The study also said that trust in organisations is eroding fast because consumers are overwhelmed by scam messages from fraudsters spoofing brand names daily. The problem has become so pervasive that consumers mistrust the technology, processes designed to protect them from fraudsters and confirm identities with many adamant that users must prove beyond doubt who they are when logging in to use a platform, and that there should be an online identity system to quell the surge of scams.

In response to MARKETING INTERACTIVE, LinkedIn's spokesperson said that its internal teams work to take action against those who attempt to harm LinkedIn members through phishing. "We encourage members to report suspicious messages and help them learn more about what they can do to protect themselves, including turning on two-step verification," the spokesperson added.

According to Lars Voedisch, principal consultant and MD of PRecious Communications, LinkedIn’s success is based on being seen as a trusted platform for professionals to connect and interact. “Having this very essence called out can certainly become a reputation issue for the brand,” he said. Voedisch added that for any brand caught in such a situation, they first have to acknowledge that they are aware of the situation, share what they know and provide context of the significance, before informing its users about their approach to the situation and how they intend to overcome it.

“The most important lesson from other crisis would be not to trivialise the issue or putting the responsibility solely on platform users and their behaviour,” said Voedisch.

Meanwhile, independent PR consultant Asiya Bakht said that it is critical for LinkedIn to take this issue head on. “A professional platform of that stature is expected to have right security in place to protect its users personal information. LinkedIn already has section on phishing scams on its site and perfunctory information on how users can protect their information, but now it needs to double down efforts in this area. Most users would also want to know the reasons why LinkedIn has seen such a dramatic jump in phishing attacks in the last quarter." 

She added that on an individual level, as an active user of LinkedIn, the findings of research are definitely disturbing, and for starters it will be good to get a stronger reaction from the company on this research.

On the other hand, Tarun Deo, founder and managing director of Progressive Communications said that the impact on brand trust for LinkedIn will be no different than any other social media platforms. "Even if it is a professional platform, at the end of the day it is used by the same human beings as on other social media platforms," he added. Nonetheless, Deo said that these platforms can only try their best to contain it, but it will never completely go away.

Deo also added that perhaps some may feel more vulnerable on LinkedIn as "their entire career path is laid out for the picking", but otherwise, the ranking itself is a huge wake up call to all social media platforms.

Deo explained how social platforms such as Tinder, Instagram, and even LinkedIn, have always been rife with scams but only recently started to gain awareness in the public domain. He cited how, for instance, Netflix's documentary The Tinder Swindler helped to bring awareness to scams on dating platforms. "In turn, audiences are going to be more circumspect on what they see and do on these platforms," Deo said.

Photo courtesy: 123RF

Related articles:
Study: Brand trust dips with fraudsters impersonation scam texts and calls
Can OCBC build back a bank of customer trust following the phishing scam?
Phishing scams: How detrimental are they to your brand?
Google ads the latest avenue for scammers
NCPC shows scary fallout of scams in emotionally-charged spot

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