News Column

Randy Neugebauer's Twitter Account Hacked; Social Media Expert Offers Advice

January 24, 2013

Adam D. Young

Forget about U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer's miracle weight loss technique promoted briefly Tuesday night on the Lubbock Republican's official Twitter account.

"The Congressman is not recommending any weight loss systems," said Heather Vaughan, a spokeswoman for the Congressman.

She confirmed Neugebauer's Twitter profile, @RandyNeugebauer, was re-secured by Wednesday after it was hacked briefly late Tuesday -- an increasingly common problem with social media.

The party responsible for hacking Neugebauer's account Tweeted a link disguised as a weight loss tip to the Congressman's 6,500-plus Twitter followers, Vaughan said.

"I think we caught it quickly and removed the post as soon as we saw it," Vaughan said. "We want to be able to assure that any messages out there from the Congressman are from him."

Neugebauer's staff is not taking the breach lightly, having secured the Congressman's Twitter account by changing its password "to something more complicated," Vaughan said.

"Any time communications with constituents are compromised, that is serious," she said.

There is no reason to believe any other accounts or constituent information was jeopardized, she said.

That even a Congressman's Twitter profile can be breached shows a need for increased vigilance and skepticism for all in working with social media accounts, said Allison Matherly, coordinator of digital engagement at Texas Tech.

"It's something that everyone is vulnerable to," she said.

Matherly oversees the university's social media accounts through Twitter, Facebook and other applications, noting such attacks and account hijacking are increasingly common.

Texas Tech's Twitter account receives 10 to 20 attacks a day, she said, though many are simply direct messages with links to potentially dangerous websites.

Having some skepticism of all hyperlinks, especially the shortened URL's sent through Twitter messages, is a good way to avoid falling victim, Matherly said.

"Often, the links will take you to a page that looks authentic, like the Twitter home page, and it will ask you to put in your user name and password," she said. " If you give them that information, there's not much you can do to stop them."

Changing one's password is an easy remedy to re-secure a compromised account, Matherly said.

Twitter recommends using a password at least 10 characters long that includes upper and lower case characters, numbers and symbols, Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser said in an emailed statement.

Matherly said it's a good idea to change passwords in any social media, bank or other account that had the same password as the one compromised.

For users unsure if their account is secure after changing the password, Twitter recommends submitting a request via its website: https://support.twitter.com/forms.



Source: (c)2013 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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