"Colin was here" - How to avoid Twitter hijackings

Sky News is another in a spate of recent Twitter hackings, with vandal "Colin" leaving his digital footprint. Famous accounts are valuable, and password security can only go so far. Recent attacks have seen accounts run by the BBC, FIFA and Guardian compromised.

Some messages are more innocent than others, one by the AP's Twitter feed saw markets plunge:

“Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured,” appeared on the Twitter account of news agency Associated Press (AP) during afternoon trading after hackers gained access.

Within seconds the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 145 points. Other markets immediately followed suit, with the oil price falling and the US dollar weakening against the Japanese yen.

(Full article)

Thankfully, satire website the Onion has some easy rules to avoid falling victim to such attacks:

Make sure that your users are educated, and that they are suspicious of all links that ask them to log in, regardless of the sender.

The email addresses for your twitter accounts should be on a system that is isolated from your organization’s normal email. This will make your Twitter accounts virtually invulnerable to phishing (providing that you’re using unique, strong passwords for every account).

All twitter activity should go through an app of some kind, such as HootSuite. Restricting password-based access to your accounts prevents a hacker from taking total ownership, which takes much longer to rectify.

If possible, have a way to reach out to all of your users outside of their organizational email. In the case of the Guardian hack, the SEA posted screenshots of multiple internal security emails, probably from a compromised email address that was overlooked.

(The Onion's Tech Blog)

As social media becomes more powerful, we're likely to see Twitter and the like become increasingly potent. Alex Dymoke has six more legitimate Tweets that changed the world:

ManUtd_PressOffice @ManUtd_PO
Sir Alex Ferguson retires. #thankyousiralex

Sir Alex Ferguson retires
One hour after this tweet, Alex Ferguson was mentioned more than 1.4m times. To put that into perspective, Margaret Thatcher’s death was mentioned 1m times in the four hours that followed.

Aja Dior @AjaDiorNavy
omgg , my aunt tiffany who work for whitney houston just found whitney houston dead in the tub . such ashame & sad :-(

Whitney Houston dies
Aja Dior, a relative of one of Whitney Houston’s entourage, broke news of the singer's death 42 minutes before The Associated Press. The tweet also corroborated later reports that her body was discovered in a bath tub.

Sohaib Athar @ReallyVirtual
helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1am (is a rare event). Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter :-/

Osama Bin Laden SWAT team lands
He didn’t realise it at the time but Sohaib Athar was the first person to tweet about the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. He later tweeted “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.”

MarsPhoenix @MarsPhoenix
Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! Woot!!! Best day ever!!

Ice found on Mars
When its robot spacecraft Mars Phoenix Lander captured images of water ice, NASA eschewed the usual press conference and instead shared the news with this jubilant tweet.

Jim Hanrahan @highfours
I just watched a plane crash into the hudson river in manhattan

Plane crashes into Manhattan’s River Hudson
Jim Hanrahan broke the news that a plane had crashed in the Hudson fifteen minutes before any of the mainstream news outlets caught wind. Many of the images in the following day’s newspapers were twitpics captured at the scene.

Clarence House @ClarenceHouse
The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton

Royal wedding announced
The engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton was formally announced by Prince Charles’s office. However, this 132 character tweet from Clarence House (the Royal home in London) got there first.