Twitter Hackers Target High-Profile Execs, Companies

The irony was not lost on Craigslist founder Craig Newmark when he acknowledged that his Twitter account had assumed a life of its own.

“I’m now in contact with Twitter regarding problems, seems to be a propagating bit of malware, and I used to know something about this,” Newmark tweeted Thursday.

Whoever or whatever hacked Newmark’s account to spew spam via direct message to some of his 64,000 followers might have only caused the 60-year-old software developer a modest level of embarrassment and inconvenience. It did, however, serve as yet another reminder of hacking’s prevalence in social media.

Two incidents last month showed that major brands are also susceptible.

When hackers messed with the Twitter account at Burger King, the damage inflicted included announcements about Burger King being sold to a competitor and the swapping out of the BK logo for the golden arches.

A day later, Twitter hackers dragged Jeep’s name through the mud by swapping out the corporate logo for Cadillac’s and implying drug use among company executives.

Despite these cautionary tales and others, a recent survey suggests that many corporate executives are not paying attention to their online reputations, which all too often can be distorted by the work of determined hackers.

According to the survey that was compiled last year by the Zeno Group, a New York-based communications agency, more than one third of chief executive officers said they care little, or not at all, about their company’s reputation online.

The agency also found that 10 percent of those surveyed would take no steps to address damaging articles or social media posts by engaging an online audience.

“In these results, we see too many organizations that are still not ready to use social media to their advantage, either to advance their reputations or defend them,” said Mark Shadel, managing director at Zeno.

Part of defending a reputation is minding the store; monitoring social media accounts on a constant basis to spot hacking before it gets out of control.

In Newmark’s case, he seemed to get a handle of the problem fairly quickly — it was his followers on Twitter who apparently had let him know that something was amiss.

Adam Popescu
Adam Popescu
Adam Popescu has covered social media, green business and eco-travel for a variety of news outlets, including Marketplace, LA Weekly and Los Angeles Times Community Newspapers.
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