2011 turned out to be a very big year for Twitter. The masses seemed to discover that this platform made it (seemingly) possible to contact their favorite celebrities, news outlets and politicians directly. However, while it will take some time for the dust to settle and see if Twitter will remain the connection powerhouse it became in 2011, one thing is for sure... Today's Tweeps should think Twice before believing their Tweets.
By far, the largest Twitter account to be taken over was that of Lady Gaga. Just like everything Ms. Gaga does, her Twitter account hack turned out to be large and dramatic. With more than 7 million followers on the social networking platform, Gaga has an unprecedented public outreach capability. And this December, when her followers (or as she calls them her "little monsters") were offered free iPads it actually did not seem too good to be true. Alas, her followers learned soon after the hack that the scam was just another phishing attack and that their heroine was not as generous as they had hoped.
Pop stars and screen sirens were not the only target of Twitter account takeovers. Politicians got their fair share of abuse as well. If we learned one thing in 2011 it was to not to transmit scandalous pictures via tweet and/or direct message as was evidenced by the media circus known as "Weinergate". This event taught us that even if nothing is sent out to our followers publicly, the information within our Twitter accounts can harm us, as was evidenced by a hacker finding and spreading some NSFW images from the congressman's Direct Message outbox.
Perhaps the most sought after hacks were those of news outlets. Fox News, NBC and USA Today had their streams taken over. A group which called themselves ‘The Script Kiddies' claimed that they were responsible for the takeover of all three accounts. The damage was minimal, but the hackers did have the opportunity to tweet from NBC's account, a false report of a high-jacked airliner that had crashed into Ground Zero. Perhaps though the damage was not done by what the hackers posted, but by the possibilities of what they could have posted.
And so in 2012 we are left with trepidation of what hackers have in store for us. The mayhem that could be, should our celebrities, politicians or news outlets become controlled not by popular culture or corporate responsibility, but by a bunch of teenagers lurking behind keyboards. It should be an interesting year.
'Twitter Takeovers of 2011' was written by Nikki Junker. She is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at the Identity Theft Resource Center.