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After MTV and BET's fake hacking, the joke's on Twitter

After MTV and BET's fake hacking, the joke's on Twitter


The hack was fake, but the damage to Twitter's reputation may be real

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It's been a big week for Twitter hacks, but the most recent batch, from Viacom properties MTV and BET, have been confirmed fake thanks to an errant tweet by a social manager. It's not MTV's first time with fake hacking — and not the first time it's backfired on them. But this time, coming amid widespread security issues on Twitter and increasingly sophisticated military players, the backlash may be stronger than expected.

"You have to say, it's bad timing."

The outcry on Twitter, predictably, was almost instant, including a few shots from other corporate accounts, but there's also been skepticism from within the industry. "You have to say, it's bad timing to do a publicity stunt when there are legitimate brand accounts being hacked," said Joe McCaffrey of marketing firm HUGE, referring to hacks on Jeep and Burger King accounts. MTV, for its part, declined to comment.

Twitter has also stayed silent on the episode, aside from some well-timed password advice, but it’s safe to assume it isn’t laughing. Real or fake, the hacks are a public reminder of the quarter million account passwords that were compromised earlier this month, as well as the lingering security flaws in the platform. If Jeep wants to protect itself against the next hacking, it's not clear what it could do. Twitter still doesn't support two-factor authentication, the app-and-password-based security that Google, Amazon and a growing number of services have implemented. In Twitter’s defense, it seems to be looking into it, but it’s not here yet and there’s no telling when it will be.

One of the early tip-offs to the MTV hoax was how tame the tweets were

For a broadcasting platform, that's a big problem — especially if you're still pitching yourself to celebrities. Most high-profile hacks often involve tweets that are quite a bit more dicey than MTV and BET’s staged hack, and each time it happens the brand gets a little less appealing. One of the early tip-offs to the MTV hoax was how tame the tweets were: no racism, no homophobia, no Hitler. If you spend your career worrying about "brand profile," that’s scary stuff, to be avoided at all costs. And until we trust Twitter's security more than @MTV, it's got the power to scare people off the platform entirely.