THE BLOG

How to Prevent Social Media Hacking - And Damage Limitation

20/09/2013 12:14 BST | Updated 20/09/2013 12:14 BST

Last night I received a direct message on twitter from a follower. It suggested I might want to know about a photo of me that was circulating the net. As a long time twitter user I have seen this before, and far from me getting excited or worried, I just pressed the delete button and emailed the follower to let them know their account had been hacked. Social media has become an important part of the marketing platform for many within the legal industry, offering new ways to network, generate profile and achieve position as something of a thought leader. However, in the wrong hands a social media profile can wreak huge damage on a brand, particularly where there is malicious intent behind any takeover. We have recently seen a number of high profile hacks that have demonstrated that even the biggest names aren't safe (the New York Times and the Huffington Post to name two). But what steps can you take to try and keep your own accounts safe from cybercriminals?

Safeguarding and changing passwords is essential to the security of your social media accounts. Passwords should be a mix of letters and numbers and have nothing to do with the business, or any of the people in it. It's important to change the passwords regularly and to keep the number of people who have knowledge of a business social media account password to a minimum.

Regularly monitoring social media accounts for anything out of the ordinary is key, as this is often the first way that a hack is spotted. Training those who are using the platform to look out for obvious signs, such as tweets or status updates that they haven't posted, or replies to inbox messages that were never sent are important for preserving security.

Keeping software up to date is really crucial, particularly virus software, and deleting any malware that makes it through the net as soon as it is spotted is also incredibly important. If you're using any third party software to access your social media accounts then be sure to keep an eye on these too, and if there is any kind of security breach, change the passwords on this software as well as on the accounts themselves.

If your accounts are hacked then move quickly because it's amazing how much damage can be done by hackers in a short space of time. When Fox News' Twitter account was hacked, for example, tweets were posted stating that President Obama had been assassinated in Iowa, which caused all sorts of panic. If you have been locked out of your social media accounts then you need to contact the provider to re-establish your password and then delete any offending tweets or statuses. Most importantly, make sure that you send out a message explaining what happened to your followers - and do this quickly. Remember that social media moves extremely fast and once you have lost followers or fans there is no way to reach them to try and re-establish the link.

When social media accounts are first set up, businesses often become so caught up trying to make them successful that security gets forgotten. However, given all the hard work that goes into building up a following, seeing this being destroyed by one small security breach simply isn't worth the risk.

If you would like help with your social media strategy or you're involved in a social media crisis, then drop us a line.