Agency to host seminar on social media hacks

The breach of a U.S. military Twitter account has spurred a training seminar for officials later this week. 

The General Services Administration (GSA) announced it would hold a web seminar this Thursday to teach federal agencies how to guard against and respond to social media hacks. 


The seminar was announced hours after U.S. Central Command's (CENTCOM) Twitter account was taken over by individuals claiming allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The individuals posted a number of tweets to the military account before it was suspended and also hacked the YouTube account.

CENTCOM said commercial servers hosted the Twitter and YouTube accounts that were breached and its military networks were not compromised. It is describing the incident “purely as a case of cybervandalism.” 

An arm of the GSA – called DigitalGov — helps federal agencies use social media and other digital services. On Monday afternoon, it began Tweeting out instructions on how to prevent social media attacks and set up two-step verification. 

It also sent instructions via email on Monday to hundreds of social media managers in the federal government, offering similar guidance in case of a social media attack. 

The guidance was first reported by Buzzfeed

The GSA has been warning for years about the need to respond quickly when a government agency’s social media account is taken over. 

After the Associated Press’s Twitter account was broken into last year, the agency warned that the government would have to guard against similar attacks. 

It said it is easy to guard against the attacks, which are usually the result of “lazy device security.”

“In fact, what’s often blamed on social media hacking is rooted in poor account management: easy-to-guess passwords; passwords that aren’t changed periodically or after staff changes; or lazy device security such as unlocked computers or mobile devices,” the agency wrote in a blog post last year, which it linked to on Monday.