Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

AP Tweet That Rattled Stock Markets Exposes Media Vulnerability

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

AP Tweet That Rattled Stock Markets Exposes Media Vulnerability

Article excerpt

The hacking of the Associated Press Twitter account this week underscored the need for news media to protect themselves against future attacks.

Hackers sent out a false tweet on the AP feed Tuesday reporting that the White House had been bombed - causing a temporary $200 billion drop in US stock markets. The CBS flagship news magazine shows, "60 Minutes" and "48 Hours," also had their Twitter accounts hacked.

For news organizations whose reputations are built on credibility, the concern is real - particularly as social media feeds become an increasingly integral part of the news media's overall strategy.

"The media are really rushing to brainstorm about what they need to do to not only make sure that this doesn't happen again, but to reassure the public that they are reputable and trustworthy," says Peter LaMott of Levick, a consulting firm for media. "What is more concerning about this AP episode is that it went right at the heart of what the company is all about - its reputation for accuracy."

The number of such episodes have been on the rise in recent years, he says, noting that both Burger King and Jeep were the victims of hacking pranks. In the AP's case, the Syrian Electronic Army - known to support President Bashar al-Assad - claimed responsibility for the hack.

Both the social media industry and news outlets are taking steps to try to head off future hacks.

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For example, Twitter is moving toward a two-step authentication process as a way to improve security, according to Wired. Anytime a user tweets from a new device, the user would need to input a random code messaged to their cellphone. Google and Facebook already use such a two-step process.

Meanwhile, major news outlets including The New York Times and Bloomberg News are also approaching the problem from a different direction. They are employing services such as Storyful that quickly verify whether social media posts from other organizations or random users are accurate.

More broadly, newsrooms nationwide are urging reporters to strengthen passwords, to change them more often, and to be more aware of how hackers work.

AP reporter Mike Baker told his Twitter followers that he was a victim of phishing, a tactic in which hackers parading as legitimate entities send e-mails that ask for sensitive information, such as passwords or account numbers. …

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