These days, gaining access to sensitive information about a person or brand has become a lot easier through social media. Social platforms have made connecting with others so much more convenient but they have also left us more vulnerable to hacking — now more than ever.
It seems that no one is completely safe on the internet. Brands and celebrity personalities, however, are at greater risk of hacking due to the size of their following compared to most regular users. Hackers target those with a respectable following in order to get the most recognition for their devious behavior.
No one seems to be safe
Even United States President Donald Trump is classified as a hacking risk for sending tweets directly from his Android smartphone, though maybe this isn’t a huge surprise. Cybersecurity experts are also alarmed by his decision to link the @potus (President Of The United States) account to the email address associated with his Android device.
Anyone who can hack into Twitter's infrastructure and spoof tweets from Donald Trump will perhaps have the most global lulz of all time. 🤔
— SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) January 3, 2017
While we’d like to assume that the White House Gmail account is a lot safer than your average user’s, Trump becoming at high risk of hacking sends a clear message that no one is safe on the internet.
Since even before the internet, many have fallen victim to the devastating aftermath of hacking — from private individuals to global corporate entities. Learning from some of the most notable brand hacks on Twitter can help you beef up your security on the internet to protect your reputation.
Several HBO Accounts
Earlier this year, a notorious hacker group that goes by the name Our Mine began sending out tweets through HBO’s official Twitter accounts. The hackers sent out a clear message that the accounts are being held hostage until HBO management reaches out to them “to upgrade their security.”
BREAKING: Yet another hack problem for HBO tonight…this time to it's social media accounts https://t.co/oCRuBsqx1e pic.twitter.com/AM1g7dHL0E
— Andrew Wallenstein (@awallenstein) August 17, 2017
Along with HBO’s official Twitter account, the official accounts for shows like Girls, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Game Of Thrones (again) were also compromised by the same group. Our Mine is a group known for targeting celebrities and personalities like Channing Tatum and Mark Zuckerberg. They’ve also taken over the accounts of brands like Netflix, Marvel, and Google in the past.
This hacking incident came during a time when HBO was embroiled in another fiasco in which a Game Of Thrones episode was leaked four days ahead of its scheduled premier — talk about a double whammy.
UNICEF, Forbes & The European Parliament
Hackers are motivated for many different reasons. Some hackers take over accounts for monetary gain, while others do it to put the spotlight on their mischievous agenda.
Back in March of this year, several high-profile Twitter accounts were hacked by an anonymous group. Accounts belonging to Duke University, UNICEF, Amnesty International, BBC, The European Parliament, and Forbes (to name a few) sent out tweets containing the swastika symbol and a couple of hashtags in Turkish that translated to “Nazi Germany” and “Nazi Holland.”
The hacking incident occurred during a time when there was rising political tension between Turkey and Holland. Many accounts were hacked and forced to send out content designed to raise tensions between the two nations. Even Biebs:
Nobody is safe, even Justin Bieber's Japanese account got hacked pic.twitter.com/urlSw4yaOy
— Arjun Kharpal (@ArjunKharpal) March 15, 2017
The hackers were able to gain control of the accounts through the third-party app Twitter Counter. Twitter rectified the situation by revoking Twitter Counter’s permission to post on their website.
The rightful owners of the accounts were able to regain control of their profiles in a matter of hours — but a hard lesson in account security was learned that day.
Jeep & Burger King
Back in 2013, a Twitter hackapalooza took place that victimized global brands Burger King and Jeep. The two separate incidents occurred within hours of each other.
The hackers replaced the official profile photos of Burger King and Jeep with images of the McDonald’s logo, and changed the biographies as well.
When Burger King got hacked >>> lmao pic.twitter.com/3vduRv8RWU
— dopecatshawty (@sonnydopecat) February 18, 2014
They also sent out a slew of offensive and profanity-ridden tweets that were obviously out of character for both brands.
McDonald’s was quick to comment on the situation, saying they sympathize with the brands but had nothing to do with the incident.
We empathize with our @BurgerKing counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking.
— McDonald's (@McDonalds) February 18, 2013
Just like the other accounts mentioned here, both Burger King and Jeep were able to regain control over their accounts within hours — and no social media managers were harmed in the process. To save their reputations, they should have purchased Twitter retweets to draw more attention to their apology and clarification tweets. This would help change the conversation from the hack to the follow up work they did.
Activists & Fake News
One of the prevalent issues of our time is the proliferation of fake news on social media. Hackers are taking advantage of everyone’s vulnerability online — including some high-profile account holders — to advance their agenda.
AccessNow found that several accounts that belonged to journalists from Venezuela to Bahrain were being hacked using a method called The Double Switch.
During the process, hackers infiltrated a Twitter account (it works on other platforms too) and replaced the name as well as the listed email address. Once the email address has been changed, the original owner won’t be able to retrieve the account without a lot of help from Twitter.
#Ahora | Hackean cuentas de Twitter y Facebook de la periodista Milagros Socorro. pic.twitter.com/TFgMi9Zu8C
— Espacio Público (@espaciopublico) January 8, 2017
Next, hackers would create new accounts with the hacked account’s original handle and original images. They will then use the new account to spread fake news among thousands of followers — causing confusion amongst the public and putting the credibility of the actual account holders on the line. Pretty devious.
Tweet With Caution
Regardless of motive, Twitter hacks are never innocent. They can ruin a brand and spread malicious agendas on the internet quicker than a wildfire. When using Twitter for your marketing efforts, make sure to always tread (and tweet) with caution. You’ll never know when a hacker will strike so you should beef up your account security as early as possible.
Be careful when choosing third-party tools and websites for your marketing efforts. They, too, are also vulnerable to hacking and may compromise the security of your account.
If you plan on purchasing Twitter Followers to improve your social proof and authority online, do your research and only go for reputable providers that won’t compromise the security of your account. If they ask for your password, that’s a bad sign. Check our list of trusted companies to find the right one for you.
Social media platforms like Twitter are like double-edged swords. On one side, they allow you to connect to thousands of people with a single post. On the other, they put you in a vulnerable spot where anyone with certain skills might be able to gain access to your sensitive information.
As a brand on Twitter, it’s your job to make sure you reach as many people as possible without putting your security at risk.