Consumers are not the only ones at risk of identity theft. The newest victims of social media identity theft seem to be large corporations. Recently, the number of corporate Twitter feeds being illegally accessed and used has skyrocketed. Each time a corporate account is hacked, the punch delivered is often a powerful one, making corporations major targets when it comes to Twitter feed hacks. Here we take a look at some of the biggest hacks we've seen so far.
The Associated Press Breaks False News Story
Perhaps one of the most trusted sources for news, the Associated Press uses Twitter to send out the day’s headlines and breaking news. Many people follow the Associated Press as a way to stay current on what’s happening wherever they are. Because so many people trust the Associated Press to deliver the latest news in a timely manner, their Twitter feed hack was perhaps the most devastating of all hacks seen to date.
At 1:08 p.m. on April 23, 2013, a fake tweet was sent that said "Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured." Only 70 characters and less than three minutes later, stock prices immediately dropped, wiping $130 billion in value off the S&P 500.
Both the Associated Press and the White House quickly clarified this false tweet as inaccurate. Still, the immediate drop in stock prices opened the door to far worse damage, especially if the hackers' aim had been to create this reaction and capitalize on it. The stock markets did recover and ended up for the day.
Multiple CBS Twitter Accounts Discuss Al-Qaeda and Syria
Another trusted news source fell victim to more than one Twitter feed hack. CBS News saw multiple Twitter accounts, including those for leading news shows "60 Minutes" and "48 Hours," fall prey to hackers who used it to discuss a false news story about Al-Qaida, Syria and President Obama.
In this news hack, tweets were distributed via multiple CBS accounts with headlines that implied the United States, President Obama and the CIA were providing weapons of mass destruction to Syria and Al-Qaida. Each tweet had a link to a false article. These links were said to deliver malware to the interested followers who clicked on the link.
Although stock markets did not react in the same way as they did with the Associated Press Twitter feed hack, plenty of Twitter subscribers had their computers infected with harmful malware. (Learn more about malware risks in Malicious Software: Worms and Trojans and Bots, Oh My!)
Burger King Announces That McDonald's Purchased Their Brand
News sources are not the only Twitter accounts that have come under attack. Burger King's feed was also hacked in February 2013. The hackers used their moment in the Twitter account to post offensive pictures and tweets about the fake sale of Burger King to McDonald's. You can check out parts of the hacked feed below.
While this hack was clearly embarrassing for the brand, it may not have been all bad. Within 30 minutes of the attack, Burger King had added 5,000 new followers to its Twitter account.
Even so, the company's brand suffered because many people poked fun at the inability to create a secure password and formed a new image of the brand as inferior to its long-time competitor, McDonald’s, which seemingly won in the attack. The Twitter feed hack went on for a little over an hour, showing the lack of control and security Burger King had over its digital property. Although people were talking about the brand, the chatter was less than positive. (Read about how passwords are stolen on Facebook in 7 Sneaky Ways Hackers Get Your Facebook Password.)
Jeep Follows Suit A Day After Burger King’s Twitter Feed Hack
Only a day after the Burger King hack, Jeep’s account was also tapped. This Twitter feed hack made a similar claim too, stating that Jeep was sold to Cadillac. The new motto boasted on the Twitter page was "Just Empty Every Pocket."
The Jeep brand seemingly took an even worse hit than the Burger King brand as a result. This was partly because only moments before the attack, Jeep had tweeted a response to the Burger King hacks about online security. Fortunately, unlike the Burger King hack, Jeep’s Twitter hack stopped after only 10 minutes and 13 tweets.
In response to both the Burger King and Jeep Twitter feed hacks, entertainment networks pretended to hack their own accounts making a mockery of both brands. MTV pretended its account was hacked and that BET purchased the business. However, MTV and BET are owned by Viacom, which made the fake hack harmless for both brands. This was simply a publicity stunt to capitalize on the misfortune of Jeep and Burger King.
Social media usage continues to skyrocket with more people joining networks every day. Facebook remains the largest social media network, followed by Twitter. With so many eyes following corporate accounts on Twitter, the chances of fake tweets being seen are high, which means the repercussions can be pretty serious. Plus, as social media continues to proliferate in consumers' lives, more hacks similar to these are practically a given, regardless of improved security.
So can we trust Twitter? The answer isn't that simple. For the most part, tweets from our favorite news sources and brands can be trusted, but in this age of fast-moving news, it's important to avoid relying on any one source. So the next time you see an off-the-wall tweet or news story, do a little research. After all, isn't that what the Internet's for?