Many of you will remember a string of hacked Twitter accounts making news earlier this year, including Burger King, Jeep and (even though it was later revealed to be a pretty clever instance of newsjacking) TV networks MTV and BET.
You may have also taken notice when the Facebook page of notorious hate group Westboro Baptist Church was hacked earlier this month, their information and pictures changed to support the groups of people they have made a habit of protesting against.
In both instances, these cyber “attacks” were generally laughed off as instances of hackers being clever enough to break in or the account owners not sufficiently securing and monitoring their social media accounts.
But what happens when one of the world’s most reputable news sources has their account information stolen?
On Tuesday afternoon, the official Twitter handle of the Associated Press (@AP) was taken over by hackers, who sent out the following tweet to nearly two million followers:
As expected, the message traveled quickly, but unlike Burger King— whose account remained open to hackers for more than an hour—or Westboro Baptist Church—whose Facebook page is STILL controlled by hacker network Anonymous—the AP was quick to set the story straight through its other accounts, and the @AP Twitter handle was shut down within minutes.
Even still, the shock was felt throughout the United States, especially following the role of Twitter in breaking the news of last week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. The stock market plummeted sharply due to the nature of the tweet, and there were undoubtedly tons of panicked phone calls to and from news outlets scrambling to get the correct information.
The Associated Press should be applauded for its constant monitoring of its social media channels, but this incident should still serve as a prime example of the importance of internet security and vigilance. Had the AP not taken immediate action to dispel the false information, the situation could have led to a much greater state of panic and fear that extended beyond the social realm.
For anyone currently using social media or for anyone considering it, especially when representing a business or other serious enterprise, this incident should serve as notice that social media management requires much more than the “set it and forget it” mentality espoused by many social media companies.
Ultimately, the amount of time you invest into social media is up to you as the account owner, but events like this strengthen the argument to either do it “all the way” or avoid it altogether.