Protect your Twitter account from Hackers, Twerps, Twolls & Twats

Good v Bad Twitter Followers
Good v Bad Twitter Followers

In a previous post I mentioned my Twop Twitter Twips for Tweeps. In this post, I’m going to make some recommendations for how to protect your Twitter account from Hackers, Twerps, Twolls & Twats.

Sooner of later, successful Twitter accounts become victims of their own popularity. When you stick your head above the parapet someone will try and shoot you. The same applies to social media. The more popular you become the more followers you attract. This makes you more visible and tempting to potential hackers, spammers, trolls and the downright twatty.

These anti-social media accounts can be all sorts of varying degrees of annoying and nasty, varying from the mildly time-consuming and distracting troll or hater, to the out-and-out nefarious hacker. Dealing with them can become a ball-ache of Buster Gonad-sized proportions, unless you take some sensible precautions.

Basic steps to protect your Twitter account

Basic steps to protect your Twitter account include:

  1. Create Strong Passwords
  2. Use Login Verifications
  3. Watch Out for Phishing
  4. Be Wary of 3rd-Party Apps & Websites
  5. Protect Your Phone

This is a “Def Con 3” level of alertness. Follow these steps and you might be lucky enough to avoid being hacked or becoming the victim of other security breeches. Don’t get complacent though.

Intermediate steps to protect your Twitter account

The next level of protection and alertness – “Def Con 2” – is to closely monitor who follows you and exercise due diligence.

There are several factors that help to identify the bad follower from the bona fide. These include, singly or in combination:

  1. No profile picture
  2. No header picture (although this in itself isn’t necessarily a sign of dodgyness, just laziness of the lack of a suitably large/hi-res picture)
  3. A header picture that is a stitched together collage of 5 or 5 photos “scraped” from another social media profile
  4. The username and profile name are a random string of letters and numbers and/or bear no correlation to each other
  5. Male profile picture and female username/profile name
  6. Profile picture is of a celebrity
  7. Profile picture is of an unfeasibly attractive individual
  8. The profile bio reads like the stream of consciousness rantings of someone mentally ill/a religious zealot or fanatic/someone with massively diverse and divergent interests
  9. The Twitter account only ever retweets/tweets randomness/tweets auto-generated quotes and nothing else/tweets crap
  10. They make no attempt to disguise the fact that they are dodgy by blatantly advertising that they can sell you 10,000 followers
  11. They have an unfeasibly large number of followers and/or they are following an unfeasibly large number themselves
  12. The following/follower numbers are the same

Etc. etc. You develop a spider sense that tingles in time with a bit of experience and knowledge. The follower might look kosher on the surface, but something might not ring true upon further investigation.

Anatomy of a Twitter Spammer
Anatomy of a Twitter Spammer

Don’t become a victim of vanity and assume that all followers are good followers because they increase your numbers.

Ask yourself:

  1. Why would this person follow me?
  2. Are they the sort of account I want to follow back?
  3. Do they potentially bring my account into disrepute or potentially put other legitimate followers off by appearing on my follower list?

Be cynical. Be cautious. Be suspicious. Be diligent.

Remember, yes, you do indeed get notifications when new followers follow you, but some slip through the net and you won’t be informed. Check your follower list periodically to make sure no nefarious nerks have followed you under your radar.

Advanced steps to protect your Twitter account

The next level of protection and alertness – “Def Con 1” – takes things to the maximum level of alert. Do this if you’ve already had your fingers burnt or it’s becoming too onerous and time-consuming to weed the bad followers out.

Def Con 1
Def Con 1

Lock your Twitter account down through the settings

  1. On your Twitter account home page, click the gear icon to see your Settings.
  2. On your Settings page, go to ‘Security and Privacy’ to view a wide range of options available.
  3. To enable protected Tweets and make your account private, tick ‘Protect My Tweets’.
  4. You’ll be asked to enter your Twitter password, just to double-check it’s definitely you making your account private, or public, if you’re unticking.
How to protect your twitter account
How to protect your twitter account

This means that all new followers have to request access to you and your tweets, and you can approve or reject follow requests on an individual basis. Allow the ones you want, reject those that you don’t.

What happens when I protect my Tweets?

  • When you protect your Tweets and make your Twitter account private, only your current followers will be able to see your Tweets.
  • Accounts with protected Tweets require each user to request to follow. You are able to manually approve and select who is able to see your Tweets.
  • The retweet function is disabled on Tweets you post, so anything you post remains entirely within your account. Your followers are NOT able to share your content, they can only favorite it. You are still able to retweet other public users though.
  • Protected Tweets do not appear in search engines like Google and third party sites, like Favstar, are not able to archive them. Protected Tweets are only searchable by you, the owner of the Twitter account, and your followers. Previously posted public Tweets will still be searchable in Google.
  • Unless the user in question follows you too, mentions (i.e. @KatyPerry I love you!!!) will not be seen by the user in question because they do not have permission to see your Tweets.

What to do if you get bad followers

Use “Block” and “Report” judiciously.

Click on the offender’s name. You can do so from your Twitter feed or from your Followers page. Their account will come up. Go to the “cog” icon for “More User Actions”, and click on “Block” and/or “Report”. The offending person won’t be able to see your tweets on his or her timeline, nor will you be able to see theirs; plus Twitter should look into the validity of the account if you report them and ultimately shut them down.

You could also consider installing an app to vet your followers, there are various ones out there, but look into it first and use your best judgement on whether it’s something you definitely want to do.

Still unsure whether or not to protect your Twitter account?

Still unsure whether or not to protect your Twitter account? Need more information or convincing further? See this article on PC World – Should I protect my Tweets.