6 brand damaging social media profile hacking incidents

Unless you have been living under a rock recently, I am sure you will be well aware of an increasing cyber security risk facing brands, organisations and public figures in today’s hyper connected world. The likes of Sony, for example, have been hounded with a series of attempted and successful hacks on the Playstation network. But the most notable of late is the Sony Pictures breach which has even been linked to North Korea with political undertones.

But, in a world where hacking vast IT networks is becoming child’s play, how do our branded social media channels fair? And is there sufficient attention paid to our social media policies, guidelines and control measures (passwords, access and more)? Quite possibly not, judging by the volume of downloads of our social media policy workbook during 2014 it was certainly on the agenda though!

Here are 6 hacking incidents involving branded social media profiles of note:

1. Centcom – US Military’s Central Command


A little over 9 days ago the US Military Central Command were hacked by “CyberCaliphate”, a group supporting ISIS. Two videos were uploaded to the official YouTube account entitled “O Soldiers of truth go forth,” and “Flames of War Isis Video.” The Twitter account was suspended following the attack after a message was posted saying “American Soldiers we are coming, watch your back, ISIS”. A comment from the Pentagon stated “we are viewing this purely as a case of cybervandalism”. Documents were released via the Twitter account although none contained “classified information”.

Co-author of the well publicised book, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar”, said the hack was embarrassing but not dangerous – almost always the case when bench marked against other cyber security breaches. Egg on the face at the Pentagon though…

2. Skype


The well known group Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) hacked Skype social media accounts at the beginning of 2014. The messages were linked to concerns first aired as a result of leaked documents from whistle-blower Edward Snowden – who highlighted the extent of surveillance programmes carried out by the US National Security Agency. The documents claimed that the agency had access to servers of major technology companies including Skype, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube and Apple.

3. Jeep


4. Burger King


This one is just embarrassing for Burger King. Some cheeky so and so hacked into the Twitter profile and changed the profile picture and description in favour of biggest rival McDonalds.

However, as the clever bunch at Synthesio pointed out. Was it such a bad thing? If you are looking at soft metrics such as awareness, then maybe not…

Burger King Hack Infographic

5. HMV


Now technically you could say this one is not a “hack”. HMV employees took to their Twitter account, live tweeting throughout mass redundancy meetings causing a giant stir on social media.

What you can say is that the Marketing Director at HMV seriously underestimated the power of social media and the need for user guidelines and policy. But, in wake of being sacked in bulk, the stricture of a set of documentation wasn’t going to prevent this one from happening. However, with the right procedures in place, linked to crisis communications you would have hoped that the “keys” to social media channels were taken, restricted or monitored during this time.

6. House of Wolf Pub

So, this is not a big brand, and not the most well documented story of its kind, but pertinent all the same. A disgruntled employee who had retained access to the House of Wolf pub in Islington’s Facebook and Twitter profiles hijacked the page and launched into a rant. The assault spread to the pub’s website where the hacker created a new page with a ransom request “This will remain on the HOW website until you pay me. Please uphold your agreement and pay up. Thank you, J x.”

This last point is a stark reminder it can be sometimes the simplest of common sense things that need to be thought about and covered in policy, workflow and escalation plans for social media. Get more support from our social media policy workbook if this is something on the radar for your business.


Skype Hack – BBC News – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25572771

HMV – The Week – https://www.theweek.co.uk/media/56628/top-10-social-media-fails-2013

House of Wolf Pub – Social Media Frontiers – https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/11044203/Gastropubs-social-media-accounts-hijacked-by-angry-ex-worker.html

Jeep – Huffington Post – https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/jeep-twitter-hack_n_2718653.html

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