So far, 2013 has been the Year of the Hack, as the past few weeks have proven positively lousy with big-name security breaches.
Social networks, news outlets, and now…jeeps and fast food? That’s right, recent events have seen two prominent businesses get their Twitter accounts hacked, and worse. Not only did identity pirates shanghai the feeds (and therefore the reputations) of Burger King and Jeep, they used this illegal access to send embarrassing and scandalous messages to their followers.
Last Monday, @BurgerKing began tweeting that it had been sold to McDonalds, changing its image to a golden arches logo and posting ridiculous, wildly provocative comments about rappers and mad cow disease. The same thing happened to Jeep the next day, when its account claimed it had been sold to Cadillac and that its CEO had been fired for doing drugs.
The incidents had huge and bizarre repercussions. Many users tweeted quips about how hackers “had it their way” with the fast food giant. Actually, if the plan was to send people away from the burger chain, it backfired: Burger King now has 30,000 new followers and tons of media attention. In fact, soon after MTV and BET actually pretended to have been hacked, apparently just for the publicity.
Burger King’s well-managed response is a fantastic example of a corporate character trait I call repetitional jujitsu – using negative digital events to your competitive advantage. If you think that BK’s response was accidental, or casual, think again.
Despite the silver lining for the company, this is an alarming series of events. It may seem funny now, but will you be laughing when strangers start using your digital reputation for a prank?
In response to this, Twitter is determined to make its system more secure by implementing use of the email authentication system DMARC, which will hopefully limit hackers from using false emails to gain private information. While this will help, only time will tell how much difference it actually makes.
It may seem trifling, but your digital reputation is vital to how you’re perceived in the offline world. Proper social media risk management is the key to combating such attacks, and its best to take it to heart before someone makes you the next big online joke.
John Sileo is a social media reputation expert and keynote speaker on online identity and risk management. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.