Social media: Hard to live without it—or sometimes with it

February 5, 2013 01:30

By Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director

Beyonce’s halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl generated as many as 268,000 TPM (Tweets per Minute.)  The power outage at the start of the second half—nearly as many!

How did we ever get by in the years BT (Before Twitter)?

But with the exploding popularity of social media comes the growing threat of bad guys doing bad things…whether half a world away or right in your own market.  For those who live in the public arena like on-air anchors and reporters, there’s growing reason for even more diligence to protect themselves and those around them.

While the most recent revelations of the hacking of major media groups’ computers and emails come from overseas, Twitter disclosed that it, too, had been hacked and information, including passwords and email addresses were stolen from some 250,000 users.

Twitter responded quickly to the attack, and in making the incident public said, “the attackers were extremely sophisticated and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked.”

What happened with Twitter followed closely the cyber-attacks, believed to originate in China, on computers belonging to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.  In those, the goal appeared to be for the hackers to gather intelligence on reporters who were writing stories related to the family of China’s prime minister.  What motivated the Twitter attacks is unclear.

Add to all this to the very real threats posed recently to some on-air personalities, who have been the targets of cyber-stalking by people in their own communities and it’s easy to wonder how to keep your online information and identity relatively safe?

While you can abide by all the traditional rules of computer security when it comes to your work—and home—computers, such as changing passwords regularly and avoiding accessing sensitive data using public Wi-Fi, securing your social media presence and people’s access to it requires even more vigilance. 

While news managers often encourage their on-air personalities to share information that helps viewers “connect” with them and “know” them a little better, you need to be very careful what you disclose, so you don’t make it easier for those who have bad intentions to potentially do you or your family any harm.

  • Don’t share specifics as to what restaurants, shopping centers or other places you like to visit.  Never disclose schools or play facilities your children attend.   Keep any information about your interests very general in nature, so as not to alert others as to where they might find you outside of work.  Think hard about sharing photos which provides too much location detail.
  • After the Twitter attack, Bob Lord, the Director of Information Security for the company added that users should "avoid using websites or services that promise to get you lots of followers."  He said "these sites have been known to send spam updates and damage user accounts."
  • In short—be thoughtful and sensible about your online presence.  Remember, once it’s online—it’s hard, if not impossible, to get it back.  What may seemingly be harmless or fun at the time could prove to be fodder for security problems down the road.
Social media adds tremendous dimensions to both newsgathering and to the development of brand identifies for both media outlets and their staffs.   But as it continues to grow, so will the problems with people out to use it for reasons which are not always desirable. We should remember that every time we log on.