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I read an interesting article from the New York Times this week. It was about the problem of social media accounts being hacked and hijacked and something bad happening to a brand. Before we get started though. let’s make it clear that if ANYONE thinks that what happened to the Burger King Twitter account where it was hacked and stuff about being purchased by McDonald’s etc. happened on it, really thinks this hurt the brand I suggest you reassess. Anyone who is stupid enough to buy that kind of abrupt messaging as real is not social media savvy and likely just not very intelligent. Also, if someone holds it against the brand and says that such an event was a negative then I call BS on you as well. Burger King hasn’t gotten that much publicity in a long time so no one at BK HQ are wringing their hands too hard.

But back to this NYT article. It read

While most Americans were winding up their holiday weekends last Monday, the phones at the Vancouver headquarters of HootSuite, a social media management company, began to ring.

Burger King’s Twitter account had just been hacked. The company’s logo had been replaced by a McDonald’s logo, and rogue announcements began to appear. One was that Burger King had been sold to a competitor; other posts were unprintable.

“Every time this happens, our sales phone lines light up,” said Ryan Holmes, the chief executive of HootSuite, which provides management and security tools for Twitter accounts, including the ability to prevent someone from gaining access to an account. “For big brands, this is a huge liability,” he said, referring to the potential for being hacked.

Good for HootSuite for getting business based on a situation like this but there is one claim that I just have a problem with–and it could simply be the NYT writer not getting it–but saying that HootSuite offers the “ability to prevent someone from gaining access to an account” is a bit overstated. Of course they do with an HTTPS access to their third party platform but they have no, as in zero, control of what happens from a security perspective at the actual provider level. HootSuite can in no way make your Twitter account safer at the source. If someone hacks Twitter to get to your account  you are S.O.L. (you can look that one up) even if you have a HootSuite account.

It could be claimed that one is actually making their social media accounts MORE vulnerable to attacks by using third party management platforms. Someone, somehow got to the Burger King account. Twitter uses HTTPS for their service as well. Now there are at least TWO places where your login information is available. Last I checked is that the more people that have keys to your house, the more likely one of those keys goes missing.

So I have to wonder just what kind of safety is there for social media accounts which seem to be getting hacked with greater frequency. I don’t think there is much. Hackers are good at what they do because it is all that they do AND they are motivated. Their motivation varies. Some want to try to hurt a brand while others just find satisfaction in cracking a code and getting around something where they shouldn’t be. It’s a mindset I don’t understand but it is very real.

So let’s be honest here. Your social media accounts are only as protected as they can be at the origination point. If Twitter can’t protect your account from a hacker then anything you do is not going to prevent it either.

It might be best to simply put disclaimers on everything like this one from Raleigh sportscaster Mark Armstrong for his Twitter account.

Opinions are strictly my own, unless I say something stupid, in which case, HACKED.

There’s a fair amount of wisdom here. Maybe you should consider the same tactic for your brand?

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