Twitter Account Hacked? Let Your Customers Know

Sue Marquette Poremba

There's no doubting Twitter's and microblogging's growing role in the way we communicate. But there are plenty of kinks to be worked out. Twitter has been hacked and has crashed. Shortened URLs, a necessary evil when you are limited to 140 characters, can lead you to virus-laden Web sites. Finally, what Twitter user hasn't been targeted in a Direct Message phishing scheme?


It's bad enough when you are on the receiving end of an attack, but what if an account representing your company has been hacked and your brand is now associated with sending spam or viruses? The best thing to do is to alert your customers.


Mary Landesman, senior security researcher at ScanSafe, came up with an ABC list of proper etiquette for dealing with a social-networking scam:


  • Acknowledge the attack to anyone who might have been adversely affected.
  • Be detailed: Tell them what message they might have received as a result of the malware/phishing and what might have happened as a result.
  • Caution your contacts: Use this as an opportunity to remind everyone that just because they think a message comes from someone they know, there really is no way to tell for sure. If they ever do click a link that then leads to a login page or to a video codec install, they should close the page immediately and contact the friend via some other method to inquire -- and possibly alert him or her -- about the seemingly malicious link.


Just as you would do in an e-mail, Landesman also recommended Twitter users give their Tweets a human touch. She said:


Get in the habit of including some identifying info so the recipient can tell that you really did send it. For example, instead of sending "Check out this funny video," include more specifics such as, "Funny video - reminds me of that crazy guy we saw on the beach in the Bahamas." If enough folks adopted this habit, it would become much easier to distinguish the really generic messages as being likely phishing/malware attacks.

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