It isn’t clear just who carried out Twitter account hacks this week that replaced Burger King’s logo with McDonald’s arches and supplanted a Cadillac crest for Jeep’s logo—the group Anonymous has claimed responsibility
, and some outlets have traced the hacks back to a New England DJ
Regardless of the culprits, big brands certainly want to be sure they’re not the next victims of an attack.
“We genuinely empathize with the brands that suffered attacks on Twitter this week,” says Scott Monty, Ford Motor Co.’s global head of social media. “It’s the last thing that any company wants to have happen.”
What are those brands doing to prevent a hack? Some are staying tight-lipped in the name of not giving anything away to potential attackers.
“What went down certainly makes us re-examine our security, and I’ll leave it at that,” says Brooks Thomas, communications specialist at Southwest Airlines.
However, a few brand social media managers, along with PR pros who handle social media for clients, offered some of their strategies.
Passwords, passwords, passwords
“Our protocol at Ford was to ask our global teams to change all of their Twitter passwords immediately to more secure combinations of letters numbers and symbols,” Monty says. “Further, we’re asking them to create a regular update with passwords, along the same lines of the protocol that our IT organization requires of Ford employees for internal access to Ford sites and hardware. “
Jason Ginsburg, director of interactive branding at Brandemix
, says he’s not sure what further steps his agency could take to bolster its security.
“We have a secure server and a Twitter password known to very few people, though it's possible the clients may have shared them,” he says.
However, Matthew Krayton, director of social media at ebrand Studios
, says social media managers need to be “in a perpetual state of alert.”
“We always make sure to change our passwords periodically and limit access to our social accounts,” he says.
Jim Prosser, a spokesman for Twitter, said Twitter itself had no additional security measures to announce right now, but he did point to a Tuesday blog post
with password safety tips.
Monty says he reached out to Twitter requesting two-step authentication, which is an option Facebook and Google offer.
Lou Cimaglia of Grow Socially
says it’s becoming increasingly clear that even the strongest security measures can be breached.
“It is imperative for the brand to have an immediate and reliable response mechanism to address such events,” he says.
Krayton theorizes that the Jeep and Burger King hacks were probably the result of a common Twitter vulnerability, but Jeep reacted to its hack relatively quickly—perhaps it had the benefit of being the second victim—whereas Burger King’s lasted for a few hours.
“Brands will likely be hanging their metaphorical ‘Keep Calm and Twitter On’ posters in office with an eye toward bolstering security and having a solid response protocol in place,” Krayton says.
Ginsburg adds that brands that find themselves victims of a hack should be ready with apologies and statements after the crisis is over, too. Though Burger King did humbly address the hack on Twitter
, it hasn’t said anything on Facebook, he notes. Nor have there been any Twitter follow-ups.
“It seems like a missed opportunity; even a failed responsibility,” Ginsburg says. “The Boston Globe reported
that BK planned an apology on Facebook, but I haven't seen it yet. Their first tweet after regaining control hit the right note, but they haven't tweeted since then. What gives?”
The danger of the self-hack
The other big hacking story Tuesday was the apparent hack of MTV’s Twitter account, which turned out to be a planned stunt
. It wasn’t helpful, says Keith Trivitt, director of marketing and communications at MediaWhiz
“If a brand as famous as MTV has to resort to fake hacking its own Twitter account to gain the attention of its followers and, ostensibly, the public, then the state of social media marketing isn’t nearly as robust or mature as many thought,” he says.
Stunts like MTV’s won’t destroy social media engagement, Trivitt suggests, but it may set it back as consumers still wonder whether they can trust brands in the social media space
“Tricks and gimmicks such as this, while they may gain some short-lived attention for the brand, do little to build brand affinity and online influence over time,” he says. “Ultimately, they degrade the overall value of social media marketing for all companies.”
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.