Contrary to the news, you do not have to be a Hollywood celebrity or a powerful news organization to risk having your Twitter account hijacked. To avoid being the latest victim of hackers looking for a quick buck or to harm your online reputation, follow some basic rules when managing your Twitter account, such as choosing a secure password, staying clear from suspicious users and keeping your computer malware-free.
Choosing and Securing Your Password
Because it is essentially the key to your entire Twitter account, a suitable and secure password should be your first priority. When trying to hijack someone's Twitter account, hackers use a variety of password-guessing methods. What those methods have in common is a reliance on on predictable passwords, such as common dictionary words, keyboard sequences such as "123456," or personal information, such as your dog's or your daughter's name.
To keep your Twitter account secure, it is therefore crucial to select a password that is virtually impossible to guess. A secure password should be 10 characters long or more, include special characters or numbers and use mixed case. In addition, avoid using the same password across several websites, as, by stealing your credentials from one website, hackers could gain access to all other accounts you have secured using the same password. Finally, if you sometimes share your computer or mobile device with others, avoid permanently storing your password in your browser or app.
Setting Up Login Verification
Even with a secure and protected password, it is unfortunately still possible for malicious users to gain access to your account. Simply looking over your shoulder on the bus while you type your password into Twitter would, for example, allow someone to gain full access to your account. To prevent scenarios like this, add an extra layer of security to your Twitter account by enabling login verification. With login verification enabled, a unique login code is sent to you via text message every time you wish to log in to Twitter, therefore preventing hackers from being able to access your account unless they are in possession of both your password and your cell phone. Alternatively, Android and iOS users can opt to access login verification directly within the Twitter app instead of receiving a text message. You can enable login verification on the Twitter security settings page.
Watching Out for Social Engineering
Hijacking a Twitter account does not always require great technical skills. Hackers try to get users to reveal their own passwords by tricking them -- for example by sending emails to their targets designed to look as if they had been sent by Twitter staff, a type of manipulation known as social engineering.
A simple rule when dealing with emails or direct messages is to never disclose your password, even if the sender appears to be Twitter itself. In addition, avoid clicking on links sent by direct messages, as those can redirect you to pages infected with credentials-stealing malware. Finally, keep a close eye on your followers. Do not hesitate to block fraudulent-looking accounts, such as Twitter accounts used mostly for spamming or to spread illegal or offensive content, and avoid following users who have followed you without first making sure these are legitimate users.
Keeping Tabs on Connected Applications
When using third-party applications, such as games or other social networking sites, you may have noticed that you are sometimes asked to allow this app to gain access to your Twitter account. While providing access to Twitter does not give the app full control of your account or access to your password, it nevertheless exposes some of your personal info to a third party and may even allow the app to post to Twitter on your behalf. You should therefore express caution when agreeing to provide access to your Twitter account to a website or application, especially one developed by a company you have never heard of.
Scanning for Malware
Some computer viruses are designed to specifically steal login credentials for a variety of online services, such as Twitter. In addition, keylogging malware can be used to capture every keystroke on your keyboard, which, of course, includes the passwords you type to access social networking sites. For this reason, set up your operating system to automatically download and install security updates. For further protection against malware, scan your computer at regular intervals with a reputable anti-virus updated to the latest security definitions.
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