AP’s Hacked Twitter Account Affected the Whole Country

The Associated Press’ Twitter account was hacked yesterday and a tweet went live announcing that there were explosions in the White House and the President was seriously injured. Less than a minute after the tweet was sent, the stock market took a nose dive. All it took was 140 characters to make the Dow Jones plummet by more than 150 points. For roughly five minutes investors panicked and tried to stabilize the market.

stock marketBut Twitter is just a toy the kids are playing with; it doesn’t matter in the real world. 

As the stock market was in a state of limbo, Sam Hananel and the AP Stylebook both tweeted about the AP’s main account getting hacked. Most correspondents and AP accounts spread the word to ignore the main account. @AP was suspended while they worked to gain back control and the White House made an official statement that the President was fine and there had been no attacks.

But social media really has no real effect on our society.

A group called the Syrian Electronic Army who has taken down a quite a list of credible Twitter accounts, from the BBC to Reuters, took credit for the tweet. They were almost giddy in their announcement of the hack.

The SEA is the whack-a-mole of Twitter. Any time the social network bans one account, another one pops up. @Official_SEA2, @Official_SEA3, etc. They wear the final number like a medal of honor for how many times Twitter has deemed them a threat. They are a Syrian group spreading a pro-Assad message.

Twitter is being used as a weapon by international hackers to attack the US, but really guys, it’s just for the short term. 

It’s not just the AP that has been the victim of recent hackings. On Saturday night, 60 Minutes and 48 Hours were hacked by the same group. The 60 minutes account posted tweets claiming that the US government was hiding the true Boston bomber and advocating for the Syrian Electronic Army, which 48 Hours retweeted. There were multiple calls to action demanding Americans rise up against the government. Most followers realized that this wasn’t the normal vernacular for 60 Minutes or 48 Hours and waited for CBS to clarify.

Good thing social media is just a trend, right?

This has gotten out of hand. It’s one thing for hackers to take down Jeep and Burger King, but these accounts provide news that affects our society, our economy and our international relations. Tech experts and news outlets are calling for Twitter to establish a double authentication system and many believe that won’t be enough. The system would require users to sign in with previously registered devices, similar to logging into your online bank statement. Frank Reed of Marketing Pilgrim pointed out that the attack on AP was because of a phishing email, which means Twitter could create a 10-step login process and still get hacked.

A stricter sign-in process might save some accounts, but can’t stop the worst of the bleeding. That solution needs to come internally from Twitter.

Either way, Twitter needs to do something, because social media isn’t just a fad. 

About the author

Amanda Dodge