Keeping Social Media Accounts Secure is Much Harder Than You Think

We are living in an interesting time. Today, events with world-changing significance are being influenced, and in some ways manipulated, by the same portals we use to share cat videos and pictures of our desert. From political elections to criminal investigations, social media has recently revealed its true colors as the most potent culture-shaping tool in modern history. One would hope that all of that power would be met with an equal amount of responsibility. But this unfortunately is not always the case.

Proofpoint, Inc. has created a proprietary method for the protection of cloud-scale social media services. We recently had the chance to speak with Rich Sutton, Proofpoint’s Vice President of Engineering, Social Media, Security and Compliance, to find out what is being done to keep the vast influence of social media from being corrupted.

Dome9: So what exactly does Proofpoint do with social media accounts?

Sutton: Proofpoint is a leading next-generation security and compliance company that provides cloud-based solutions for comprehensive threat protection, incident response, secure communications, social media and mobile security, compliance, archiving and governance.

Our award-winning, cloud-based social media protection solutions enable brands to prevent abuse, enhance security, and ensure compliance across leading social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, YouTube and more. The success of our solutions has earned us the trust of more than 100 brands.

Dome9: In reality, how difficult is it for bad actors to take advantage of weak points in the security of the major social media giants?

Sutton: It’s easier than you might think and that’s why Proofpoint is working so hard on these products. Our social media innovation is based on the concept that security and compliance for a company’s social media activity has to happen inside of the social networks themselves and not at the network perimeter of a company.

Believe it or not, it is the perimeters of even the most established tech companies that can be, and are, bypassed in more than 50% of security incidents.

Dome9: How then do you prepare beyond the perimeter to protect against and ward off intruders?

Sutton: The only consistent and viable way to enforce security and compliance controls on social infrastructure (e.g., Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages and profiles) is to do so via social network APIs. To ensure effectiveness, the Proofpoint application integrates with each social network API, shares intelligence across platforms, and provides a unified report dashboard for users.

As a native cloud-based solution, the Proofpoint social media protection services run completely on Amazon Web Services (AWS). We also leverage AWS building blocks while fully utilizing AWS security and compliance standards. It’s also important for us to bring in multiple independent security verifications and third party security tools, like Dome9 Arc for example, to run a highly-secure cloud network.

“Dome9 introduces sanity into my security group management. Managing security groups without the Dome9 Arc platform would be insane. We have worked with Dome9 for years now and have seen firsthand how the Dome9 team continuously expands its solution capabilities to further secure our cloud infrastructures.”


-Rich Sutton Vice President of Engineering Social Media, Security and Compliance, Proofpoint


Dome9: What are some of the major security issues you have to battle on a regular basis to keep these accounts secure?

Sutton: From the beginning, our cloud security team understood that network security challenges require professional resources for protection. Choosing something like Dome9 Arc has enabled Proofpoint’s social media protection team to run a robust and secured cloud environment.

Things like access management, IAM protection, and managing our Cassandra Clusters are all security concerns we are constantly working to execute effectively.

Dome9: Can you explain more about these clusters and why they’re important for keeping social media accounts locked down?

Sutton: Sure. Proofpoint’s social media protection and compliance solutions are built on Apache Cassandra clusters, which are groups of nodes that hold the same data and span three AWS regions. Proofpoint embraced Cassandra for its scalable and resilient NoSQL persistence database solution qualities and inherent multi-directional and cross-regional asynchronous replication. Cassandra nodes need to communicate with one another within specific AWS Availability Zones (AZs) as well as across global AWS regions. However, managing Cassandra EC2 instance IPs manually (as raw IPs that have to be applied to every security group that’s involved) is onerous, time consuming and error prone.

From the beginning, the social media protection services’ development team realized that Cassandra deployment required protocol and port management with multiple security groups and rules, which posed a challenge. IP addresses changed when the Proofpoint team added or reprovisioned Cassandra nodes in AWS. The Dome9 Arc IP Lists simplified management efforts within the dynamic cloud environment. With Dome9, the Proofpoint team has an IP list that applies to a particular service or port in a security group, and can change it across multiple security groups that reference the IP list. Additionally, Dome9 Arc has enabled Proofpoint to reliably update firewall rules in order to maintain secure, cross-regional communication between nodes.

Dome9: How does Proofpoint plan to continue battling for security in the constantly evolving world of social media?

Sutton: Proofpoint’s social media protection solutions are used by some of the largest companies in the world and need to adhere to the highest security standards. Dome9 plays a key role in supporting Proofpoint’s stringent processes in order to ensure that all security and compliance requirements are met.

The Dome9 Arc platform is an important and valuable tool that has enabled Proofpoint’s social media protection team to keep the size of its operations team streamlined with increased efficiency and effectiveness. With that in mind, we will continue to add new solutions and tools to meet organizational needs and keep accounts secure. We will evolve right alongside with the industry.