By Marcus Leach

The hacking of one of Fox News' Twitter accounts today, July 4th, was disturbing, given the messages posted proclaimed President Obama was dead, and raises the need for tighter security within social media.

Social media has taken off over the past few years, turning from a means of communicating with friends and family into a fully fledged business tool. Yet, given the wide reaching impact it can have, there are concerns over the security protecting it.

Companies take time to establish a reputation on sites such as Twitter, building a following of people who respect the brand and messages. So, when an attack such as today's occurs it can be highly damaging to a company, especially when the Tweets are of such a serious nature.

Social media expert Jemima Gibbons said that this attack highlights just how important it is to have good crisis management in place, in the event of such attacks.

"This story highlights how important it is to have good crisis management in place," she said.

"I'm surprised Fox News isn't using its main Fox News account (@foxnews) to apologise for the Obama assassination story and explain that they're doing the best they can to regain control of the hacked account.

"They posted a brief apology on their website but Twitter is where the story broke and it is still being re-tweeted. For damage limitation, Fox News needs to set up a hashtag on Twitter, join the conversation and reclaim ownership of this story."

James Coleman, Senior Creative Designer, for Hampshire Graphics Ltd (@jpacoleman), believes such an attack could be highly damaging to such a respected source.

"I think the key to this is that Social Media is fast becoming one of the most powerful communication channels and often the first point of contact to your brand," said Mr Coleman.

"Protecting the integrity of your brand therefore becomes paramount, as a single miscommunication or disgruntled customer can cause a social media backlash.

"The recent tweet relating to the assassination of Barack Obama has been retweeted over 100 times (according to twitter, which stops counting at 100) and has likely therefore been seen by millions. This, paired with the fact the tweet came from a 'verified' account makes the source more credible and likely caused much panic worldwide.

"In this particular case - Fox have as yet been unable to regain control of their account, and therefore not been able to deal with the issue - the longer it takes to make the first steps to controlling the situation, the more damage occurs. Fox control a number of other Twitter accounts, and these have also not acknowledged any incident, nor issued retractions or apologies for the tweets that have gone out.

"Imagine telling someone you know, the news of something tragic, or some really juicy gossip - it's likely they will tell their friends. Now imaging telling that same thing to 33,000 people and imagine how many people they'd tell - a PR nightmare.

"It would be interesting to know how the attackers gained control over the account - whether there is some vulnerability in Twitter itself, or just the result of a simple phishing attack, either way, this should force any brand using Twitter to consider the security of their accounts - and take steps to prevent unauthorised access, through use of strong passwords or implementing other policies to ensure they are not easily compromised.

"It wouldn't surprise me if sometime soon, a service launches with the sole purpose of securing Twitter accounts - either through two-factor authorisation, or employing some sort of verification every time someone logs into the account."

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness