The hackers who got into the Twitter account of the Associated Press in the last week of April didn’t just shock a lot of people by using that account to tweet that an explosion had occurred in the White House and had injured the President. The fact that it came from the account of the Associated Press made it credible. The stock markets slid 100 points right away and wiped out billions of dollars in stock market wealth for some time.
Certainly, no one hacking into your Twitter account could cause this much damage. Still, they could cause considerable alarm in your circle if they chose. In November 2012, for instance, Twitter reported that it was investigating the password hack of a large number of its users. It may be time for all of us to pay a little attention to learning the rules of Twitter security.
- Create a strong password for your Twitter account – and make sure that you don’t use the password on any other service on the Internet that you may use. If you’re worried about creating a complex password (with special characters and numbers) and then forgetting it, all you need to do is to invest in a password service like RoboForm or KeePass that can remember all your passwords and never forget them.
- Make sure that you secure the email address that your Twitter account is attached to. If the email account has a weak password, someone could hack into it and send a password reset request to Twitter. It’s a good idea to keep changing your passwords. If you have password remembering software, this shouldn’t be a problem.
- There are many third-party apps and programs that use the Twitter platform to offer you many conveniences. To use these, though, you need to give them your Twitter password. It’s always a good idea to investigate each Twitter app that you use to make sure it’s legitimate.
- You need to be careful about the links you click on. Poisoned links are a special threat on Twitter – they are the most common way in which mass attacks occur. Usually, you get poisoned tweets from people you already know on Twitter whose accounts have been compromised. The tweet can say something provocative and offer a link. Since the tweet comes from someone you trust, you click on it and away you go.
- A good way to avoid poisoned links is to double check any unsolicited Direct Messages that you get. If they lead to a page that asks for your username or password, you want to make sure that the purported sender of the message did actually send it.
- Always preview any URL shortened link on Twitter. If you are using TweetDeck, for instance, the Show Preview Information for Short URLs function helps.
While social networking is a powerful way to form a community with like-minded people, it also comes with its own set of special risks. You just need to learn how to protect yourself.