The importance of social media security is back under the spotlight after the AP Twitter hacking.


IT doesn’t seem to end, does it? This spate of big network hacks is just going on and on.

Last week, the Associated Press’ (AP) official Twitter account was hacked and a false tweet was posted about an explosion in the White House that left President Barack Obama injured.

The fallout from the hoax was quite alarming. The US stock market plummeted for five chaotic minutes, before AP, through it’s other Twitter accounts, announced that the story was fake.

This week, reported a hack that resulted in over 50 million of their users’ accounts being compromised – credit card information and all. In the past, Evernote, LinkedIn and even Zappos have all been victims of hacks as well.

Chances are, you’ve been a member of one of these sites (I’m a member of at least three sites that have been hacked), and your information might actually be available online right now.

At this point, there’s very little you can do except change your passwords and monitor your credit cards for suspicious activity.

The point that’s hitting home for me right now is how much of a wild west frontier the Internet really is, and how wide-ranging the consequences can be of a simple 140-character hoax.

We’re just scratching the surface when it comes to dealing with all these little problems. All the most important stuff in your life is stored online, secured by a flimsy password.

The same goes for access to the most powerful mediums of communication for some of the biggest news organisations online. It’s not the first time there’s been a Twitter hoax, but it’s distressing how frequently credible sources are being used to publish these false stories.

Fortunately, the increasing focus on security has also shifted big companies’ priorities on the issue. After the AP hack, Twitter announced plans for two-factor authentication.

Basically, this means to sign into an account, you’ll need to provide two sources of verification. First, your password.Second, a set of randomly generated numbers taken from a key or a unique mobile app on your phone.

Naturally, while two-factor authentication is far more secure, it is also unwieldy and much more of a hassle.

Some other sites have resorted to other means to secure users. For example, online game retailer Steam emails you a verification code that you only need to enter once when you sign in on a new device.

Third party security firms have also stepped up efforts in making sure your passwords are safe. You can install a product like Norton Identity Safe on your computer to manage your passwords and add an extra layer of security.

But personally, I feel no amount of software or security protocol can protect us 100% of the time. At the end of the day, the biggest risk lies in the human element, so here’s my little crash course for beginners who want to stay safe online:

1 Don’t use the same password twice
To be honest, it’s impossible for you to realistically remember more than five passwords. What I’d suggest you do is to keep one “rubbish” password for sites you will never use frequently and don’t store any important information (sites that ask you to sign in to read content). Then for things like Facebook and Twitter, I’d create separate and unique passwords and write them down somewhere in case I forget. Yes, writing down complicated passwords may be the most important thing to do now.

2 Log off sites on public computers
I’ve seen a lot of people make this common mistake. If you’re using Facebook on your home computer, it makes a lot of sense to stay logged in. But if it’s your office or a cyber cafe, staying logged in means someone else can pretend to be you and access or download all your personal information. And it gets worse if you’ve left yourself logged into your online bank account.

3 Careful what you put online
I don’t fill in every field Facebook asks me to fill in. I don’t check-in on Foursquare every place I go and I’ll never create a Google Place called “David’s House”. You need to be very careful about what you put online, and be suspicious of every security protocol. Nothing is completely safe, but people can’t access what you’ve never put online.

4 The weakest link is you
Your mother once told you to never talk to strangers. It didn’t matter if the stranger seemed like a genuinely nice person. This is the same when you’re online. Don’t trust princes from Nigeria needing your help to take money out of the country. Don’t trust Facebook asking you for your password (no site will ever ask you for your password). And don’t “friend” random people online or believe all the

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