Remember, remember the fifth of November. This little ditty is a reference to Guy Fawkes Day, the annual UK holiday that commemorates the failed assassination of King James I of England and the unsuccessful plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Oh, those wacky Brits. This year, Guy Fawkes Day will take on added global significance thanks to threats made by some members of the online hacker group Anonymous seeking to destroy Facebook on November 5th. The shadowy nature of Anonymous left many to question the credibility of the threats. But this may have changed on August 15th when BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system of San Francisco, blocked rider cell service to thwart a mobile organized protest led by Anonymous a day after the group hacked into BARTs’ official website. BART is a case study that the whole of social media should take seriously. For users, a full scale assault on social networks is a worst case scenario to dire to contemplate. But it’s one they should consider in order to strengthen or even establish their security protocols.
Privatize Your “Social” Security
Online media and marketing experts have been rather dismissive of the 11/5 Facebook scenario. In truth, it is difficult to imagine Facebook’s servers being vulnerable to hacking, especially considering their 750 million strong and growing user base. That’s the broad-based, glass half full view of the situation. Now the glass half empty perspective - not every social user has access to such robust back-office capabilities. The fact is that even a slight disruption to social profiles could negatively impact reputations and commerce. Here are steps that individuals and corporations can take on their own to mitigate social risk:
Audit Your Followers – Depending on your overall social follower count, this could take a few minutes or a few years. OK, the latter is a bit of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, a thorough accounting of your followers is critical for short-term and long-term social security. For example, a social profile with an exceedingly disproportionate follower to follow ratio is a high risk account that should be reported immediately. Engaging in messaging from these accounts could infect your hard drive with viruses and spy-ware.
Institute Social Sensitivity Training – As more and more corporations dive into the social media waters, company-wide integration is cause for excitement and trepidation. Employee led engagement practices can backfire without the right direction. Sharing is caring but oversharing can be catastrophic. Social media and marketing departments should consider giving employees guidelines on what constitutes acceptable social messaging. Tweeting about the company soccer team winning a championship might be deemed suitable. Tweeting about how the team celebrated at a strip club would probably not.
Deleted Posts Never Really Go Away – So you deleted a gripe-filled Facebook post about your boss over a year ago and think you’re in the clear. Think again. Deleted social messaging isn't so much erased as it is stealthily stored. Savvy hackers following your social presence can access your “deleted” data sources, namely removed posts and profile changes, to retrieve vital personal information. If that weren't frightening enough, Facebook recently introduced a feature that shows a user’s old status updates. Now more than ever, social users must be aware that what they say is here to stay.
The Threats Will Remain November 6th and Beyond
Whether or not the socially disgruntled lot of Anonymous members make good on their November 5th threat is cause for conjecture; however, the risks to social media and their users are hardly speculative. Individuals and corporations leveraging social media must take it upon themselves to protect their profiles. This is not a lesson to remember solely on the fifth of November.