Twitter Hacks Lead to Headaches for Brands

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Last Monday, as the long President’s Day weekend was coming to a close, the Twitter account for Burger King was hacked. Among other things, hackers used a McDonald’s logo as the profile picture. Immediately, people began to notify Hoot Suite, a firm that specializes in managing social media and security of social media accounts.

Social media platforms started out as ways for ordinary users to share photos and information with friends and family, but they have quickly become vehicles for big companies to advertise and market their brand. As a result, guarding the integrity of those brands becomes more important than ever, and that includes protecting against hackers. Jeep was hacked a day later, joining accounts that have fallen prey to such attacks including Donald Trump, NBC News and even the ultimate hackers themselves, Anonymous.

One of the major security problems is that for even the biggest corporations, the Twitter login is no different than for an individual. In other words, merely a username and password is needed. This leaves these companies vulnerable.

Twitter and Facebook encourage brands to raise their profiles using these social media networks, and brands pay to advertise there. Security, however, is basic.

Other companies became concerned about the security of their brands in the face of the Burger King attack, and digital advertising company Deep Focus has placed the blame squarely on the social media companies themselves. Deep Focus feels that the time has come for companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the workings and needs of major brands.

Twitter earned $288.3 million in advertising revenue last year. The company cannot afford to upset its most important users, the corporations that make it profitable.

Twitter has acknowledged some responsibility for security in general while not addressing the Burger King hack specifically, and last year they sued five top spammers.

But Silicon Valley start-up Impermium points out that the very things that make Twitter so attractive to its regular users, the lack of content policing and quick access, also make it easy to write scripts that take over accounts and to abuse the social network in other ways.

The immediate solution for Burger King was account suspension until the situation could be resolved. Other brands are more concerned now as well. Hacking on Twitter is difficult to control; the Westboro Baptist Church account was recently taken over by hackers associated with Anonymous who published member contact information. Twitter’s suspension of one the main Anonymous Twitter accounts in response was largely ineffectual as the group immediately set up another account, and when their previous one was reactivated, it had tens of thousands of new followers.

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