1.9 million people heard the story from Twitter first. The Associated Press (AP), one of the most respected news sources on the planet, was reporting that there had been two explosions at the White House, and that President Barack Obama had been injured.
The good news: the Tweet was fake, entirely a hacker’s creation.
The bad news: The Dow Jones stock exchange plunged 128 points in seconds, as the automated systems that facilitate much of the trading reacted to the ‘news’.
What can we learn from this?
Verify Accuracy Before You Act – Not After!
Social media platforms are increasingly becoming the broadcast tools of choice for breaking news, but it turns out that facts that are delivered quickly are not necessarily facts that are wholly accurate. We certainly saw this during the Boston Bomber manhunt, where inaccurate and conflicting reports about what was going on were very prevalent on social media.
We’re constantly told that time is money, but sometimes, moving too fast can result in costly errors. Prior to responding to any information received from social media, it’s essential that there is some verification going on. Check multiple sources to determine reliability before taking actions that impact your business.
Bear in mind that the SEC has recently ruled that publically traded corporations can use social media to make announcements regarding their operations provided their investors are aware that information will be disseminated this way. If this is relevant to your business, it’s a good idea to have some internal discussions regarding your reliance on and responsiveness to social media.
Best Practices for Twitter Security
We don’t have all of the details regarding the AP hack yet, but we do know that the news agency was subjected to a phishing attack previously. Hackers are very smart, very sneaky people. They will try numerous routes to get to the information they want.
Maintaining Twitter security for your organization means being aware that every organization is vulnerable. You may not think that your company is big enough or important enough to capture a hacker’s attention, but why take chances?
Best practices for Twitter security begin with strong password generation. Ideally, use a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols. There are services like Random.Org and StrongPasswordGenerator.com that will create a complex password for you, thwarting most hacker’s efforts. People don’t like random passwords because they’re hard to remember, but hackers hate them because they’re tough to crack. There are multiple password management tools you can use to keep track of difficult passwords. Let technology make enhancing your social media security easier.
Change your password regularly – especially if you’ve recently had staffing changes! Many sites require quarterly password changes, but you can do so more frequently if you’d like.
Protect your passwords with the same intensity and fervor you would give to the combination to the company safe or the keys to your home. Not everyone needs access to everything! A little discretion can save you some big headaches down the road. Be especially wary of any e-mails that ask you to verify your password or direct you to log in directly from the email: these are tools hackers use to gain control of your social media accounts.