Vulnerabilities in Social Media: The AP Twitter Hack and How They Recovered

By Victoria Harres, VP, Audience Development & Social Media, PR Newswire

Hacking happens. Today it resulted in the following false and malicious information being tweeted from the @AP Twitter account: 

“Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”

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S&P 500 dips drastically after @AP Twitter hack.

Unfortunately the Associated Press, a normally very credible source of information, was victim to a hack and the results were devastating for the stock market. According to Bloomberg, the malicious tweet tanked the S&P 500 by $136 billion within two minutes.

@AP quickly tweeted that their account had been compromised and it was soon suspended and remains so now. The stock market regained strength and I think a lot of people nervously took their first breath after several long minutes.

Who should we blame?

Of course there are lots of people playing the blame game. At the top of the list is of course is the hackers themselves, and I agree! But who else holds responsibility for this crisis? The AP? Re-tweeters? Twitter?

The fact is, we’re all as vulnerable as the AP. I recently attended a panel featuring Eric Carvin, social media editor at the AP. He spoke of the efforts they put into securing their social accounts and gave some very sound security tips.

They were doing their due diligence. Unfortunately, there are always people out there who can get around almost any online wall.

The tweet was retweeted thousands of times within minutes. All of us with the power to retweet or repost messages ‘must’ be more vigilant about confirming through a second and even third sources, information that seems incredible.

Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for good, and which can easily turn to evil by our very own laziness to verify what we’re posting.

Is Twitter to blame? Perhaps Twitter can put better security measures around its service, but in the end, online vulnerabilities are everywhere, and that includes all social media platforms. Not just Twitter.

After securing our passwords and linking social accounts to something other than an easily hacked free email address, part of doing our due diligence is to have a plan of action in case such a crisis occurs.

The AP made the right moves to recover quickly today:

1. They quickly caught and countered the false tweet on their own twitter account, @AP.

2. They had AP journalists with strong Twitter presences Tweet out that the tweet was false.

3. They put out a media advisory with information making sure the story was clearly represented.

4. They told their own story on their own web properties.

At the end of the day the stock market was stable and I don’t think anyone questions the AP’s credibility as a source of news anymore than at the beginning of the day.

UPDATE:  The AP Twitter account was back up and running Wednesday morning.

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Published: April 24, 2013 By: davidk