Early Monday morning, the Twitter account of Fox News’ political team, @foxnewspolitics, was hacked. The hackers used the account, over 30,000 followers strong, to post disturbing and untrue messages stating that President Barack Obama had been shot and killed.
This embarrassing episode is also just the latest in a string of high profile hackings. A month ago, the website of the PBS NewsHour was hacked, allegedly by the hacking group LulzSec.
Here are five basic security tips to prevent your Twitter feed from becoming the latest victim.
1. Change Those Obvious Passwords
Without speculating too much, it seems possible that the hackers gained access to the Fox account by using what is called a dictionary attack. Simply put, a long list of words (called a dictionary) are used to try to gain access to the account. When the process is automated, access to the account can be gained in very little time.
It’s easy to prevent those dictionary attacks. Use a password generator tool (like this one) to create a password that would not be susceptible to a dictionary attack. Having something like “zu9ruCEw” as your password is obviously a lot more secure than “icecream,” for example.
2. Limit Access
The more people with access to a Twitter account, the more likely it is that the account’s security can be compromised. Grant access to accounts on a need-to-have basis. Don’t post passwords on intranets or send via e-mail. As soon as security to those are compromised, your Twitter account security is also compromised.
If your company uses third-party Twitter clients, the keeper of the passwords should personally set up the clients up on the computers of the users who need access. That way, authorized people are able to access the Twitter account without knowing the password.
3. Don’t Stay Logged In On A Mobile Device
This one is simple. Tweeting from a mobile device is often necessary, but log out of the app when you’re done. Phones are easily lost and stolen. As soon as that happens, you’ve granted unauthorized access to that Twitter account (and, well, a bunch of other things too).
4. Change Passwords Often
We all know those annoying IT security policies that require us to change our network password every month or two. But there’s a good reason for that. Getting in the habit of doing the same for a company Twitter account will increase security. Passwords should also be changed when someone with access to an account departs the company, regardless of whether it happens on good or bad terms.
5. Keep A Constant Eye On Your Twitter Accounts
This is the most basic of all tips. Make it a habit for someone in your newsroom to monitor the tweets that go out over company accounts at all times. The importance of this is underscored by the fact that the Fox hacking took place on a holiday weekend during overnight hours. The sooner you are able to spring into action in your response to an account that has been compromised, the less damage that can be done.
If Your Account Is Hacked
If your account is hacked, follow Twitter’s protocols. (My Account Has Been Compromised and My Account is Compromised/Hacked and I Can’t Log In!)
Remember, Twitter runs the platform and they make the rules. The fastest way regain access to a hacked Twitter account is to follow their guidelines.
Have more security tips for Twitter? Please share them in the comments section below.
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