Regardless of how broad and comprehensive internet security becomes there are always loop holes that can be exploited by the skilled and roguish to access sensitive information. The April 23rd attack on Associated Press’ Twitter account is one such example. In the aftermath of the attack federal agencies were quick to spring into action to review and overhaul their current security plan to avoid future incidences.
“Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured”, read the tweet posted on AP’s twitter account. Even though onlookers were quick to determine that the news was a fake since no other news agencies reported anything similar, its impact was felt in the stock market. The worrying message caused the DOW to plummet a staggering 100 points only to recover moments later. A little social media spy told us that ripples from the effect were very real.
The hacked tweet set off warning bells at security agencies offices that got all the incentive they needed to plan and implement defensive strategies based on GSA’s guidelines. Responsible for supervising 40 plus social media accounts which regularly post agency updates and earthquake alerts, Scott Horvath of the United States Geological Survey stated that “When [GSA’s] guidelines came out, we started talking about it amongst ourselves to make sure we followed those processes”. He further added, “We had some things in place as far as our social media accounts are concerned, but this has gotten people thinking, and we’ve put something together that lays out processes based off those guidelines that are tailored for us. It’s good that the issue was raised – sometimes I think people tend to forget.”
Drafted by the newly appointed media manager at the GSA’s Center for Excellence in Digital Government – Justin Herman – the guidelines advise simple precautions to prevent hack attacks. In addition, the agencies were also given instructions on taking countermeasures if an attack proved to be successful.
USGS and the US Navy were among the first government agencies to implement the changes within their respective departments. The guidelines were also posted on the US Navy’s tumblr page complete with instructions on how to make counteraction smoother.
During the entire AP tweet debacle no government officials stepped in to right the false information circling the internet thus allowing the media to report on the event freely. Social media bosses at various other federal agencies said that in light of recent events their policies, beyond simple password management, had changed and now included security breaches and countermeasures.
An official from an undisclosed government agency responsible for maintaining sensitive economic data remarked that his agency had to completely redesign its network security and train personnel to effectively prevent such scenarios and do damage control in their aftermath.Unauthorized messages posted on federal agencies social media accounts can lead to public outcry and panic. With the internet security breaches becoming more and more common each day the steps taken to ensure safety and reliability of these messages to the public are commendable. Due to growing dependence on social media to interact with the public, going forward these accounts will require consistent monitoring, not to mention frequent upgrading of all types of securities.