Given the dramatic and appalling events over the last few weeks, you may not have noticed a story that has similarly dramatic and appalling implications: the hacking of two Associated Press Twitter accounts. According to the New York Times, this hack caused markets to move, even though the erroneous information was called out in a matter of minutes. Twitter for its part now says it’s planning to roll out two-factor authentication to help reduce the ease of hacking its accounts.
My response? Be afraid. Be very afraid. First, this hack was simple, and the damage was transitory. But the fact that even such a rudimentary attack can move the Dow is an indication of the power that Twitter has. The world increasingly looks to Twitter for current news and other information. That reliance on a single source of information promises to increase over time.
On the other side of the equation, will two-factor authentication solve the problem? Absolutely not. First, it will likely be optional, giving hackers plenty of leeway to hack unprotected accounts. And even for the accounts that do utilize two-factor authentication, attacks are only somewhat more difficult.
The combination of these two facts is chilling: Twitter is increasingly regarded as a trusted source of news while at the same time an increasingly easy target for attackers. One more front in the global Cyberwar we’re woefully unprepared to defend.