Of all the social media networks, Twitter offers its users the broadest reach and the most level playing field. Anyone can tweet messages at their friends, strangers, celebrities and even the President of the United States. Often, they’ll receive a reply.
But there’s a catch. All tweets are limited to 140 characters – a relic of the days when mobile phones had keyboards and mobile messages had strict upload limits. As a result, Twitter isn’t a place for holding deep conversations. Instead, it’s a constant stream of anecdotes, jokes, links to other web articles and GIFs. And for many, this is what attracts them to Twitter.
With 1.3 billion registered users, Twitter is one of the world’s most popular social networks, and accounts are increasingly being used for purposes other than writing daily tweets. A growing number of websites allow users to log into their accounts using their Twitter login information, making the social network a vital aspect of the broader online landscape. But this means that Twitter users have to be especially careful about their security.
How to protect your twitter account from hackers and preserve your identity
In a best-case scenario, a hacked Twitter account is simply embarrassing. Users may find that someone is posting tweets on their behalf – usually a link to a spam website. However, a hacker with real malicious intent can do some serious damage.
Twitter accounts do not contain the same breadth of personal information that Facebook accounts do. But they contain enough to be potentially damaging. A hacker who gains access to a Twitter account will learn your name, home city and email. Depending on how extensively users have used their accounts, they may also be able to gain further access into your online life. Your personal financial information may be at risk.
Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of having your Twitter account compromised:
- Turn on login verification: One of the best ways to secure an online account is to make use of two-step verification. Twitter offers a form of this through its login verification setting. Those who turn it on will not be able to login to their account without entering a passcode that is sent directly to their mobile phone via SMS. This will prevent others from accessing your account, even if they know your password.
- Be careful when clicking shortened URLs: Due to the 140 character limit, may Twitter users rely on URL shorteners to fit long links into a single tweet. Bitly is one such service. The problem for readers is that these shortened links offer no hint of their contents until they are clicked on. It’s possible for a hacker to hide a malicious link in this manner. Be sure to avoid clicking on links unless you can verify that the person posting them is doing so legitimately.
- Use a strong password: Strong Twitter passwords are particularly important for those who use their Twitter accounts to login to other online services. Never reuse a password from another account. Always create something unique, with a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols.
While securing your Twitter account can help reduce your chance of identity theft, it isn’t possible to completely eliminate the risk. Think proactively about your personal information. A good identity theft protection service should monitor your credit, Social Security Number and public records, and alert you to certain activity in your credit file that could indicate fraud. Also consider a service that provides software tools like keystroke encryption or anti-virus protection, and education on digital privacy and how you can lower your risk.