A couple of weeks ago, a major news service’s Twitter account was hacked, and several fake tweets not only sent ripples through the media, they impacted stocks globally. While there’s a key lesson here about the importance of social media, this event underscores just how vital it is to keep social media accounts safe.

Social media is often the lifeblood of a small business or brand, sometimes as the only direct line to customers or clients available. So if your social media accounts were to get hacked, it isn’t just your business that’s in danger, it’s your reputation and your online relationships as well.

Here is my best advice to make sure YOUR social media accounts stay in the right hands:

1. Pick a good password manager

Within a small business, different people may handle different accounts and know different passwords. This may mean that while the part-time IT guy created the password to your mail server, and you know the password to Twitter, the summer intern may have been the one who set up the Facebook page. Do you know that all of those passwords are secure as well? It isn’t just about picking a strong password that contains numbers and funky characters, because we know how hard it is for everyone to remember those.

What your organization needs is strong password management software. I like Passpack because it helps a whole team easily and efficiently manage and share a variety of passwords. You can tag logins to sort them by team or project, protect all of your accounts with one extra-strong master password, and one-click login to sites. Plus, Passpack supports smartphones and tablets so you’re covered on mobile as well!

2. Two-step authentication on social accounts

Even if your passwords are strong, there still could be a weak link in the system: someone logs in using a compromised computer, a disgruntled ex-employee takes revenge, or a hacker gains access by resetting your password. How do you protect against attacks like those? Using two-step authentication. Typically passwords rely solely on something you know, as in a password or PIN you’ve memorized. Better security involves either something you are, like a fingerprint or retinal scan, and something you have, like a pass card. While computers today are pretty advanced, your webcam isn’t exactly equipped to scan your retina and your laptop is unlikely to have a fingerprint scanner. But what about a thing you have? Today, most of us have smartphones and tablets that can serve as excellent security devices in a two-step authentication scheme.

In two-step, instead of just knowing a password, you also need to have your phone ready to receive a text message or similar electronic communication. When you log-in with your password, you then will also have to enter a second code delivered securely to the device in your pocket. This means that unless a hacker both knows your password and has access to your phone, they’ll be locked out your account. Google, Apple, Facebook, and others already support two-step authentication, and others like Twitter are working to add it soon. I know that it can be a hassle to get used to using your phone and entering two passwords, but two-step authentication will have a huge impact on your social media security.

3. Secure your communication with VPN

VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a term most of us associate with ultra-secure communication and large companies—it involves a lot of extra security beyond what is usually called for because it encrypts all of your Internet communication through a secure tunnel. VPN solutions also used to be very expensive and difficult to implement. But many times, a good VPN is exactly what’s required. If you have employees who work from coffee shops, airports, hotels, or other places where you can’t control the security of a wireless, then you’re putting your social media accounts at risk. You need to ensure that your employees are using secure networks whenever possible, and a VPN solution is the perfect way to do that.

One inexpensive service I like is Private WiFi  which offers a free trial and starts at under $10/month. For your money, you get great security when browsing the web no matter where you are. Plus, their mobile apps will secure your communications when logging in to your social media accounts while on-the-go as well.

Your organization may have slightly different needs and require different solutions to helpsecure your social media accounts. Do you have questions about how you can make sure you’re totally secure? Leave them in the comment section below and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

 

Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is an Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show, CNN, HLN and Fuse. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.