Feb 19, 2013

Proactive PR: Don’t Let Your Brand Get Hacked!

This week’s hacks of of the Burger King and Jeep Twitter accounts should make PR pros everywhere sweat a little bit.  The good news is that securing your brand’s social presences (and, for that matter your own) isn’t difficult.  And simply put, leaving your brand’s social media accounts vulnerable to hacking is not just poor practice, but it’s inviting unnecessary risk.

The most common passwords in use.  These are also the  very WORST passwords you could use on email and social media accounts.

Sometimes, the best PR strategy is preventing the bad stuff from happening, and practicing good account security definitely falls within that realm.  And by the way – the practices we advocate here for brand passwords also apply to your personal accounts, as well.   Here are some tried and true best practices for securing your social media accounts:

  1.  Don’t use the same password across all accounts.  Doing so may be convenient, but it compounds risk – hackers can exploit multiple accounts once they gain entry to one.  Pro tip: Create a good “base” password and then add a unique extension for each account.
  2. Change passwords frequently – at least once a quarter.
  3. Rigorously avoid using simplistic passwords, such as “password” and “123456.”  Instead, use multi-word clusters or phrases that include using a mix of capitalized letters, numerals and symbols.    Bad grammar makes for better passwords, too.

In addition to ensuring your accounts have strong passwords, it’s also important to remind your teams to be extra careful when it comes to clicking on links shared in emails, blog comments and on social networks.    If it’s too good to be true, don’t click.   No one’s giving away iPads or $1,000 shopping sprees via random messages.   Even if a message comes from a person you trust, you still need to be careful .  Their account could have been compromised, and the links they appear to have sent you could be a trap.

Changing passwords and then reauthorizing all of your computers, apps and mobile devices may be a nuisance, but I’d wager it’s far less aggravating than watching the social media presence you’ve worked so hard to build for your brand fall into the hands of a hacker.

Additional reading:  Password security advice from Microsoft

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

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