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Security & privacy

You must do this to lock hackers out of your Twitter account

While hackers making their way into social media accounts is nothing new, it’s certainly out of the ordinary when they manage to take over a top-level account such as what happened last week to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. And if hackers can get into the account of Twitter’s CEO, how safe are we mere mortals? Not very.

Twitter has a hacking problem we should all be worried about. At best a hacker will send out funny tweets in your name. At worst, they’ll post items that could seriously damage your reputation.

The social media platform has suspended one feature from Twitter that may prevent these hacks. We have information on that, plus actions you can take to secure your Twitter account.

How Twitter account could be hijacked

When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s account was hacked posts containing racial slurs and a defense of Nazi Germany began appearing on the feeds of his more than 4 million followers. Actress Chloe Moretz’s account was hijacked as well.

In response, Twitter suspended the ability to send tweets via text message worldwide.

The company followed that tweet with one detailing why the texting feature had been suspended.

Here’s how it’s happening. Twitter links your account to your phone number. If a hacker steals your phone number, he can call your mobile carrier to switch that number from your SIM card to one belonging to the hacker. After resetting your Twitter password, the hacker can then send a tweet from your account by simply texting to 40404.

That’s apparently how Dorsey’s account was hacked.

Twitter is now allowing certain countries that depend on the text service to access the site via text. The feature remains suspended for the rest of the world.


Related: Viral prank could lock you out of your social media account


How to know if you’ve been hacked

Worried that you’ve been hacked? Twitter has a list of red flags to watch out for:

  • Unexpected Tweets from your account.
  • Unintended Direct Messages sent from your account.
  • Observed other account behaviors you didn’t make or approve (like following, unfollowing or blocking).
  • Received a notification from Twitter stating that your account may be compromised.
  • Received a notification from Twitter stating that your account information has changed, and you didn’t change it.
  • Noticed your password is no longer working and you are being prompted to reset it.


Related: If you use Twitter, clever trolls are spreading


If any of this has happened to you, we offer these tips to protect your Twitter account:

  • Always create strong user passwords. Preferably use one that has a combination of lowercase and capital letters, numbers and symbols so it is harder to gain access. Learn how by tapping or clicking here.
  • Never re-use your passwords. Keep all your online account passwords distinct. That way, if one of your accounts gets compromised, you don’t risk your other accounts.
  • Use a password manager app. They usually have the ability to create complex passwords with encryption and you could store all your credentials in one convenient place. Here’s the password manager we recommend.
  • Turn on Twitter’s two-factor authentication called Login Verification. This texts a verification code to a mobile phone you register to authenticate your identity when logging in from a particular device. Learn more here.
  • If possible, check your Twitter account occasionally. Check changes on your profile or tweets that may have been sent without your knowledge. If you think you are not going to use Twitter for a long time, consider deactivating your account. Here’s how.
  • Be careful with shortened links and links sent via email. They could be phishing scams. Always check and verify the URL of the site where you’re being directed. Think you can spot a phishing attempt? Test your skills on this quiz.
  • Scan your computer for viruses. Malware and other malicious programs may have infected your computer and are logging your credentials. This is a powerful and free tool that can help.

For now, it seems Twitter is on top of the hacking situation. I’m sure we can thank whomever hacked Jack Dorsey’s account for this swift action.

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