Twitter has a bit of a security problem, judging by two hack attacks on accounts maintained by big brands on the microblogging site. Yesterday Burger King was the unwilling recipient of a makeover that made it appear the fast food chain had been sold to rival McDonald’s; today someone pulled a similar trick on Jeep, making it appear the carmaker had been unceremoniously merged with Cadillac.”
“Anonymous” this ain’t (or at least, it sure doesn’t look that way): in addition to tweets like “#BOOTYGANG #ITHUG,” which appear to be the Twitter-hacking equivalent of a graffiti tags, on the Jeep account the hackers tweeted this implausible explanation: “We got sold to @Cadillac because we caught our employees doing these in the bathroom =[” -- with a picture of a man holding a bottle of pills. On the Burger King account, the hackers included a picture of a man apparently shooting up alongside the tweet: “We caught one of our employees in the bathroom doing this... #soldtomcdonalds #failurewhopper @McDonalds.”
In addition to obviously being hilarious(?) these hack attacks were clearly not genuine, so the “fallout” should be pretty limited in terms of damage to the brands themselves; I can’t imagine anyone following either account taking the tweets seriously. But what brands (and Twitter) should be taking seriously is the possibility of a more insidious hack, where someone with an actual agenda gets a hold of an account and posts more plausible and damaging content.
I don’t even want to go into possible examples, but it should be pretty easy to think of a few ways this might happen, especially considering how many people have been fooled by untrue Twitter rumors (e.g., about celebrities’ supposed deaths) and how much attention some bad tweets from corporate accounts have gotten recently (think: KitchenAid’s bizarre comment during the debates). While Twitter obviously needs to work on its security, brands should also have damage control plans in place to respond to these kind of hack attacks, since there are almost certain to be more.