Imagine my surprise as I sat at home working yesterday and I saw a message from NBC News’ Twitter account saying there had been a plane crash at Ground Zero. I immediately searched Twitter for any other recognition of this alleged crash. I couldn’t find any.
But I did find plenty of people who were already re-tweeting the initial message.
Within moments, there were also lots of people — fellow journalists and people from NBC alike — coming to the defense of NBC saying the account had been hacked and a crash had not happened. But the messages from the NBC account kept coming. One said a plane was missing. Then another was from the alleged hackers claiming responsibility.
In less than ten minutes from the initial tweet, both the NBC account and the hackers’ account were frozen. It was drastically different than weeks before when Fox News’ account had been hacked and the messages stayed up for days.
But people were still re-tweeting the initial message. Perhaps, though, it could be argued, other people were more vigorously posting messages indicating that the account had been hacked and the messages weren’t true. I was in the later group, trying to ease fears and correct wrongs, because as fast as word travels by mouth, it travels even faster by Twitter.
The whole time this was happening I couldn’t help but think of Ryan Osborn, the director of social media at NBC. In an interview with MSNBC, which was later further reported by VentureBeat, Ryan said around the time of Hurricane Irene he had received a message expressing concern for his family. When he responded asking who was on the other end of the message, the writer indicated it was his next door neighbor and there was an attachment… which Ryan opened.
I have not heard more as to whether it was that attachment that, in fact, did NBC in, but it’s something to keep in mind. Don’t open attachments from unknown sources, because it could lead to messages like these being spread through the interwebs. And as fast as word of mouth travels, it can travel even faster on Twitter.
Have you ever been the victim of hacking? What did you do to fix it?