Could your password crash the market?

Last updated: 21 March 2014

As recently reported, a hacked tweet from The Associated Press sparked mass market hysteria as it incorrectly reported that President Barack Obama had been injured in an explosion. This led to a brief sell-off in US markets and a blip in share prices.

Social media is fast gaining traction in the business world, with investor sentiment influenced by Twitter and Bloomberg terminals carrying a selection of Twitter accounts for traders to follow, as explained by the Financial TimesJames Mackintosh.

While the story underlines the power of Twitter and social media (as well as the impact of an attack on the White House), the real story in my opinion is the cost of poor security and the fact that The Associated Press Twitter account was ‘hackable’ in the first place. James Macintosh himself notes that one of the lessons learned is for The Associated Press to “use a better password.”

Information today is the new currency and trusted information sources such as The Associated Press need to guard their digital presence with the best possible security measures. This means that passwords are simply not good enough. Despite having a Twitter verified account, established trust can be eroded with one small (hacked) tweet.

Instead of coming up with a more complex combination for a password, any form of strong authentication is likely to be more successful. Many have tried the complex password approach and it has consistently failed.

I believe there are two key steps to be taken here. Firstly Twitter needs to step up and provide better security options for its users, ideally using multi-factor authentication instead of simple passwords. According to Mashable and Wired, the micro-blogging network is already working on this, and not before time. Secondly, users need to be more conscious of the security risk around social media and their increasing influence on the wider markets and our environment generally.

The power of a single tweet cannot be underestimated. And with great power comes great responsibility.