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  • Megan Silveira, associate editor

What You Don’t Know Could Cost You: How Hackers Hamper the Cattle Business

Learn how to identify, prevent and fight against online hackers.

In 2022 data breaches cost businesses an average of $4.35 million. The year prior, one in two American internet users had their accounts breached.

These facts might seem unimportant to Angus breeders more focused on the herd genetics out in the pasture. But with more and more cattlemen using social platforms like Facebook to connect with consumers and customers, it’s a harsh reality they need to be aware of.

“Since so many have shifted from using social media just for entertainment or connecting with friends to doing business on these platforms, the stakes are higher now,” says Miranda Reiman, director of digital content and strategy for Angus Media. “There’s a potential to disrupt commerce.”

Reiman and her team understand the threat all too well.

In January, the Angus Media Facebook account was hacked, resulting in the eventual loss of 20,000 followers. The hackers deleted key account information and historical benchmarks. The hackers removed many of the administrative users (or “admins”) from the page within hours of the initial attack, making it even more difficult for Angus employees to address the problem.

“It was all hands on deck that first weekend, and through some key proactive steps, we were able to protect all Angus Media banking account information, protect others we did business with and warn others about the threat,” Reiman says.
Head to Facebook to like and follow the new Angus Media page.

Though the digital team at Angus Media recently launched a fresh Facebook page to continue to provide key data and advertising opportunities to breeders, Reiman says they’ve gained a lot of knowledge. The team wants to share their experience to help save breeders from the same fate.

There are a few common ways hackers are targeting business pages.

Accounts with names like “Verify Business Account Restricted” tag pages in posts claiming violations have been detected from various accounts. The posts ask users to click a link before their account is deactivated. Users are receiving emails of a similar manner, claiming posts and information will be deleted if accounts don’t verify themselves immediately.

Though these messages can be alarming, Reiman urges producers not to panic or click any links.

“Usually if it sounds doomsday or uses words meant to cause alarm, such as ‘immediately deactivate,’ that is a huge red flag,” she warns.

Grammatical errors and misspellings can also be a sign an email or message isn’t legitimate. If account numbers are included in the message, make sure those are accurate before taking further action.

Reiman says the key is to be suspicious of everything. Though these messages seem official, their validity can be checked through the Facebook app. The app’s message log shows anything Facebook may have sent, and if there’s no message in that log, there’s no need to worry.

Another clue is the email address or subject line. Reiman says producers should look for strange addresses or spelling errors, as these are a telltale sign of a hacker.

Once a Facebook post or email is identified as illegitimate, report it to Facebook or mark it as spam. Be sure to delete any lingering messages or notifications so another member of your team or yourself can’t accidentally interact with the false information.

In addition to acting with caution when messages do appear, Reiman reminded producers safety is a year-round project. There are a few key tips to help make social media security a priority:

  • Limit the number of admins you have on a business’s Facebook page. The more admins a page has, the more susceptible it is to threats. Play around with ways to grant people access as needed without making everyone an admin. Make sure everyone on your team is properly educated on online safety as well.

  • Turn on two-factor authentication. This is an added safety measure than can help ensure frauds aren’t gaining access to your social media pages. When you log in from new devices, it will send you a code via text or email to verify it’s really you.

  • Periodically check security settings on accounts. This can keep you up to date on any changes made by the programs themselves and help you identify any holes in your current security measures.

If you do suspect suspicious activity related to a social media page, Reiman suggests changing your password immediately and selecting the option to “sign out of all devices” when prompted. Report activity to the Help Center.

She says with social media rising in popularity, the possibility of being hacked is more prominent than ever before. Reiman encourages producers to keep sharing their stories on apps like Facebook, but to proceed with caution when managing business pages.

“Hackers have really gotten more sophisticated in recent years, so that it used to be almost laughable to think you’d fall for a scam, they’re much more believable today,” she says. “It really can happen to anybody.”


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