In the wake of hacks, Twitter issues security advice to media

The Syrian Electronic Army has made it a habit of hacking into the accounts of CBS, Al-Jazeera, the Guardian, Reuters, BBC, the AP and other high-value newsgathering organizations to post tweets in support of the Syrian regime as the civil unrest continues in that country. Twitter acknowledged the tactic is an effective “hacktivist” approach given the millions of followers such sites have, and sent a memo to hundreds of media outlets with a detailed set of security best practices.

To keep Twitter media handles from being compromised, users should first be aware of how the attacks begin to start with: The incidents appear to be spear phishing attacks that target corporate email. “Promoting individual awareness of these attacks within your organization and following the security guidelines…is vital to preventing abuse of your Twitter accounts,” the company said in the memo.

Also, users should immediately change their Twitter account passwords, and step up how secure they are.

“Never send passwords via email, even internally. Ensure that passwords are strong - at least 20 characters long. Use either randomly-generated passwords (like "LauH6maicaza1Neez3zi") or a random string of words (like "hewn cloths titles yachts refine").”

It also had this to say:

“Third-party solutions such as 1Password or LastPass, as well as the browser's built-in password manager, will only auto-fill passwords on the correct website. If the password manager does not auto-fill, this might indicate a phishing attempt. Password managers make it much easier to use a very strong password. Very difficult passwords will discourage memorization, which will greatly reduce the chances of being phished. Be certain to set a master password, since otherwise passwords may be stored unprotected.”

Password security goes hand in hand with email security: Twitter uses email for password resets and official communication. “If your email provider supports two-factor authentication, enable it,” Twitter noted. “Change your e-mail passwords, and use a password different from your Twitter account password.”

Twitter also suggested that organizations review authorized applications, and create a plan for what to do if hacked. It also suggested that companies designate one computer to use for Twitter and minimize the number of people that have access.

The SEA, cyber-supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad – is making news hacks its go-to M.O. It’s more than annoyance at stake. In its recent hijack of the AP account, it posted a false tweet saying “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” In the following six frantic minutes the Dow fell almost 150 points before traders realized or were informed that it had been a hoax.

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