After the meteoric rise of social media networks in the last two years, everyone is now exposed to the dark side of this new phenomenon. People voluntarily share personal information with friends and family. However, they are not the only ones who have access to this shared information. The information is equally accessible to attackers who can penetrate the security infrastructure of the networks.

Social Media Security

Attackers hijack networks for many reasons. It can be as simple as making an impression and joining the big boys’ club, or for monetary reasons. With big data becoming a panacea for all ills, the follower data can get attackers quick money on the black market, according to the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive. But that is a discussion for some other day.

An attack on one network is unfortunate. Simultaneous attacks on all social media networks will spell doom. While you may lose control of one account, you still have your other networks to communicate with your followers, who follow you on other networks too.

Better Security Features

What would help is if social media networks could come up with a mechanism, where the users could suspend their account via some other tool or interface. The access to this feature, although password based, could be stored at a location other than where user passwords are stored. Doing this gives the account holders an opportunity to shut down the account until regular service is restored. I know this is after the fact, but our technology is not perfect and created by humans. If one human can create a barrier, another can devise a way to break that barrier.

This is just one more item for the security wish list until the networks come up with better security features.

Other Networks Can Help

So your Twitter account is compromised and there’s some objectionable stuff that is posted from your account. That is not the end of the world. Use your presence on other networks to issue official statements when you are still gaining back control. There is a good chance that most of the followers overlap. By issuing a statement through all other channels, you can spread the news faster than other online media such as blogs and news portals.

So Can Your Competitors

This is the least you can do, and is very important for business accounts. If your account is used to malign your competitors as in the case of Burger King, contact the social media manager of the competing brand and inform them of the situation. You can also request them to issue a statement asking their followers to ignore the messages on the compromised account. As discussed by Annie Colbert, this specific Burger King example affects both Burger King and McDonalds.

Panic is never an answer to a crisis. What you need is a well chalked out plan to handle different types of crises and train your staff to react with a cool head during a crisis. Billions of users mean billions to be earned and popularity always has its price. The price for celebrities is their privacy, but for organizations that use social media, this could mean a tarnished brand image leading to image erosion.