The notorious Twitter hack of the official Associated Press account made the headlines recently, but as high-profile as the case may have been, it was just the latest in a very long line of instances where social media has been hijacked in this way.
From Britney to the HMV Music Chain, many have suffered—but AP’s case was arguably the most embarrassing in Twitter’s seven year history. Here we record their shame, along with more of the most notorious Twitter hacks ever.
In April 2013, an erroneous Tweet appeared on AP’s official page regarding reported explosions at the White House. Here’s what the world logged on to at the time:
“Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”
Many took the ‘reports’ seriously and as a direct consequence, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 150 points as the retweets rolled in. Although the word had rapidly spread, AP moved quickly to confirm that their account had indeed been hacked and that the reports were false.
The FBI were called in before security was restored and Associated Press began to deliver their true stories once again.
But what was the reason behind the hijack and the subsequent belief of thousands of Americans that their President was seriously injured? It appears that an Associated Press employee merely clicked on a bogus link. We’ve all seen the Tweets urging us to lose weight or telling us that someone is spreading rumours about us, but what a rookie error it is to even think about clicking.
If you’ve ever wondered about the ramifications of hitting a bogus link, the AP case is a perfect example of just how extreme they can be.
An organisation calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the AP hack, but after targeting President Obama, the group struck right at the nation’s heart by taking it out on Justin Bieber.
For a man who has seen his monkey confiscated by airport security, you’d think there was little that would surprise you in a Justin Bieber Tweet, so the bogus report on E Online’s account that the singer was gay probably attracted little attention.
The very same organisation then went on to infiltrate the Onion’s official Twitter to report:
“UN retracts report of Syrian chemical weapon use: ‘Lab tests confirm it is Jihadi body odor.”
Clearly, the Syrian Electronic Army had lowered their sights a little.
After nearly a century in the business, the UK music chain HMV went into administration at the start of 2013 with the news that 4,500 jobs were at risk across the country.
In January of that year, the company’s official Twitter was compromised. Before the authorities could regain control, seven messages were sent by some of the staff whose very jobs were at risk.
The Tweets included:
“There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution of loyal Employees who love the brand”
“Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying folks) ask, How do I shut down Twitter?”
Clearly that objective was reached as the site went offline before management regained control.
Back in 2009, Britney became one of the first high profile celebrities to lose control of her Twitter account and the subsequent posts purported to reveal her love of Devil Worship.
“I give myself to Lucifer every day for it to arrive as quickly as possible. Glory to Satan!”
“I hope that the new world order will arrive as soon as possible! -Britney”
The background image was also changed but it seemed that few people were fooled by this sudden and unlikely conversion.
The hijack of Associated Press is fresh in the memory, but Fox beat them to it by some eighteen months and the hacker went a stage further by declaring that President Obama had been assassinated. The Tweet read:
“BREAKING NEWS: President @BarackObama assassinated, 2 gunshot wounds have proved too much. It’s a sad 4th for #america. #obamadead RIP”
Keeping a previous theme, the hackers also reported that Fox anchorman Bill O’Reilly was gay.
In February of 2013, Jeep’s Twitter account was compromised. This was another occasion where the background image was replaced – this time with a Chrysler badge.
Clearly the hacker wasn’t a fan of the brand, as this Tweet proves:
“You’ll never catch @50cent ridin in a Dirty Ass @jeep !!!! #ForDaLuLz #FreeJeep”\
Later, it was revealed that the man responsible was calling himself iThug and he went on to claim another famous hack from the previous day.
The Burger King hack followed a similar pattern with the company logo removed and replaced by that of McDonalds. Further comments seemed to urge readers away from the brand and into that of its competitors.
“We just got sold to McDonalds! Look for McDonalds in a hood near you @DFNCTSC”
But what can be done to prevent this? Twitter is planning to introduce a two tier authentication system which will require any new login to enter a code which will be sent to the user via a mobile phone.
That upgrade seems to be some way away, so for now, don’t leave your Twitter account logged in, be extra vigilant if logging in at a shared device and don’t ever, ever, click those links. Who knows, you might accidentally cause an e-assassination that leads to worldwide panic!