What do Justin Beiber, Barcelona FC, and CNN all have in common? All three suffered from having their Twitter accounts hacked this year and had to deal with the fallout. In the case of Justin Beiber, the attack was brief and the damage done to the singer’s reputation was minor compared to what he has done to himself over the past year. The hacking of Barcelona and CNN, however, were both carried out by the self identified Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) who has also successfully hacked the BBC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NPR, and half a dozen other high profile media outlets since 2011.

This week in our “Twit Happens” tweet regret blog series we are taking a look at everyone’s greatest online fear: getting hacked.

What might go wrong

Hacking can damage a company’s image as a reliable source and can substantially affect public action and opinion. It is also one of the most difficult social media mistakes to prevent.

In April of 2013, hackers took over the Associated Press account on Twitter and falsely claimed that explosions had occurred at the White House. The Associated Press is widely considered one of the most reliable sources of news, and the tweet was taken very seriously. Even though the tweet was only available for a few minutes, it received over 3000 retweets before Twitter took the account offline.

The consequences

Although the Associated Press was the target in this situation, the US economy was the true victim. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 143 points immediately following the hacker’s tweet, creating an estimated $136.5 billion dollar loss in value within a matter of minutes. Fortunately, the tweet was quickly discredited and the stock market recovered soon after.

How to recover

Getting hacked stinks, so how you react is what matters. The best course of action is to remove the content as quickly as possible, and do everything you possibly can to notify your audience of the situation.
Within minutes, the Associated Press leveraged its other Twitter accounts to discredit the false tweet and report the hacking. Other media outlets picked up on the correction and the stock market was able to return to normal levels.

In addition to acting fast, steps should be taken to prevent future hack attacks. An organization can lose credibility – within social media and beyond – if it is hacked on multiple occasions. Social media password credentials must be protected in the same manner as credentials for other important systems. And finally, employees should be trained to recognize and report hacking attempts such as spoofing and phishing attacks.

Next week on Tweet Regret:

Next week we will cover our final topic in the “Twit Happens” tweet regret series: rogue employees. What happens when an unhappy worker takes his discontent out on your Twitter feed? Tune in next week to find out or see below to get the answer now.

All five installments of the Tweet Regret series are available now when you download our complimentary eBook: Twit Happens – Tweet Regret in the Public Sector. Get your copy today!

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