One false Tweet can have far reaching effects: IBM

One false Tweet can have far reaching effects: IBM

Latest research by technology vendor finds social media hacks can have tangible real world effects

Social and mobile collectively is becoming a potent way of causing brand damage to organisations, according to IBM Institute for Advanced Security director, Glen Gooding.

This trend is highlighted in IBM’s recently released X-Force 2013 mid-year trend and risk report.

The report points to the breach of a well known, trusted social media account by the Associated Press.

Once hacked into, the account was used to announce that the White House was rocked by explosions and President Obama was injured.

With less than 140 characters in a Tweet, Gooding said the US stock market was sent "plummeting billions" in a matter of seconds.

“That underscores the importance of what a particular organisation is doing with a social media account, such as simple controls around who runs that particular account and who owns the ID,” he said.

Gooding said in many cases it turns out that an individual in an organisation owns the social media voice of the entire company.

“Like many users, it likely has a weak password that could be compromised quite easily,” he said.

The silver lining

Although the Associated Press incident shows how targeted attacks against individual users are used to gain access of accounts, the outcome was somewhat mitigated by other social media users.

“Fortunately, hundreds of thousands of people in the DC area responded by Twitter to say that news was not true,” he said.

“From that perspective, there was a good and bad outcome.”

Even so, Gooding points out that that the Associated Press incident demonstrated a wider impact compared to the traditional enterprise level targeted attacks that IBM sees in the market.

“We’re still seeing them, but the prominent story point was around social and mobile,” Gooding said.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.

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