burger king twitter hackingThe interwebz have been buzzing this week as a result of two high-profile Twitter hackings: Burger King and Jeep. In both instances, the accounts were hacked, the bios and profile photos changed and tweets published that included shout-outs, profanity and generally undesirable content.

And although the rest of us are secretly grateful we’re not part of these social teams and charged with quite the clean-up, the reality is that your accounts can be hacked—at any time. Sure, you could assume that global brands are at higher risk than small businesses, but it’s still important, no matter the size of your business, to make sure you’re doing all you can to protect yourself and your accounts.

Create A Secure Password, Change It Often

Today’s hackers have sophisticated tools at their disposal—yet creating a secure password is an easy way to boost your account’s protection. And even better? Change that secure password on a regular basis. Here are a few additional password tips:

  • Spell a word backwards
  • Use a password that’s a minimum of 8 characters
  • Substitute numbers or characters for letters. Example? O becomes 0, e becomes 3, I becomes !, etc.
  • Insert a special character and random capital letters

It’s not only important to create a secure password, it’s equally important to refrain from using the same passwords across all your accounts—that’s just asking for trouble.

And if you’re really smart, you’ll use something like 1Password to help manage and generate secure passwords – on sale now for 50% off as part of the Mac App Store Productivity Sale.

Reevaluate Your Social Media Crisis Plan

We’re big advocates of creating a social media crisis plan before you need it. And all too often people create a plan for dealing with trouble, then cross it off their lists and rarely revisit it. Not only should you review your crisis plan a few times a year, you should consider including what to do if one or more of your online accounts is hacked as part of your plan. Do you have an IT or security team that can help you regain control of the account? How will you respond if content is published by a hacker? What safeguards will you take to prevent a recurrence? Asking yourself these questions will help make sure you have a plan in place and aren’t scrambling to act as a problem unfolds. You certainly can’t plan for everything, but a solid crisis plan can not only give you guidance when you need it most—it can help boost your peace of mind, too.

Burger King seems to have rebounded quickly from yesterday’s debacle—and we imagine Jeep will, too. Like our  friend Jeff Peters of The Halo Group pointed out, we’re especially focused on Twitter’s response to these hijackings. At present, Twitter utilizes the same single password login for individuals and brands – and maybe this might be the impetus needed for Twitter to initiate better security measures for brand accounts. They’re certainly not at fault for the hackings, but their user base (including big brands and advertisers) would definitely benefit from hearing some security assurances straight from the source.

At the very least things like this are a great reminder to all change passwords on a regular basis as well refraining from using the same passwords for all accounts. Also? Let’s remind ourselves to dust off those social media crisis plans and think about what might need to be integrated into it to cover something like a brand highjacking. And perhaps most importantly, we should perhaps think about our collective behavior when it comes to situations like this.

If You’re Not Part of the Solution, You’re Part of the Problem

I truly believe that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and that adage very much applies here. My friend Julie Pippert pointed out on Facebook as a group of friends discussed this that it’s more than a little disheartening to see the vitriol that comes as a result of something like this. People (who should know better) are quick to blame the victims – including the brand, the agencies involved, the community managers and others for something that is usually nothing more than a stroke of bad luck. And we collectively seem to assume the worst – that they weren’t doing their jobs, or were using poor passwords or perhaps that security measures were lacking, which is rarely the case. As Julie so aptly put it, bad things can happen in spite of the best of plans. The real measure is in how we respond. And as important as how the brand responds, it’s equally telling how those of us who do this for a living respond. The reality is, it could happen to any of us at any time. Let’s be grateful, this time, that it wasn’t our team scrambling around trying to deal with a brand hijacking and let’s resolve to do more to prevent this kind of thing from happening to others.

What You Can Do

To that end, and especially for those of us who live and practice in the online space daily and whose jobs it is to help our clients and employers protect our brands, online and off, let’s take up the gauntlet tossed by my friend Ike Pigott and do all we can to add our voices to the outcry for Twitter to do something like adding double verifications to branded accounts so that we can help to prevent something like this from happening again.

twitter two step authentication campaign

Image: juanpol via Compfight cc