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Should Trump Stop Tweeting for Cybersecurity's Sake?

Should Trump Stop Tweeting for Cybersecurity's Sake?

President-elect Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Chairman's Global Dinner on January 17, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Thursday, 19 January 2017 12:35 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The short answer (in less than 140 characters) is "yes." Without a doubt, President Trump’s Twitter account could be hacked. Let’s hope for his sake it doesn’t happen when he can’t look at his phone for a while, like say…during the inauguration.

Has the Secret Service been in touch with Twitter to make it harder? I sure hope so. One thing is certain, after Mr. Trump takes office @realDonaldTrump and his other social media accounts will be something hackers try to commandeer. Clearly, Mr. Trump has made himself a prize pony of sorts because of the way he uses those direct pipelines to millions of followers.

When asked recently if he would be switching to the @POTUS account or maintaining @realDonaldTrump, he said, "I think, I'll keep it ... so I've got 46 million people right now. That's a lot, that's really a lot. But 46 million including Facebook, Twitter and … Instagram. So when you think that your 46 million there, I'd rather just let that build up and just keep it @realDonaldTrump. It's working."

It almost goes without saying that Mr. Trump is right. It’s working.

Mr. Trump has 20.3 million followers on Twitter, more than 18 million Facebook followers and 4.7 million on Instagram. (By the way, I get 43 million from that, not 46 — but maybe he has a lot of friends on Snapchat?) Anyway, it’s nowhere near the number of Twitter users that follow @BarackObama (80.6 million), and of course Katy Perry still enjoys the biggest digital entourage with 95.3 million. But somehow they just don’t seem to be as much of a target.

The reason President Trump’s account is a target has to do with the way he uses it: "I'm covered so dishonestly by the press — so dishonestly — that I can put out Twitter … I can go bing bing bing and I just keep going and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out."

Because President Trump uses his Twitter account to break news, including policy announcements, it is a dangerous target that could be used to move markets, destabilize international relations and make the president’s office look like a three-ring circus. And as such, it represents a threat to national security. The question then becomes, is it an acceptable risk?

There Is Another Reason

Karl Rove thinks it’s time for Mr. Trump to stop tweeting.

In a pre-inauguration Wall Street Journal op-ed, the former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff under George W. Bush notes, "Mr. Trump … enters office with historically low approval ratings, 40% favorable and 58% unfavorable in the Jan. 8 Gallup poll. Although the president-elect dismissed such polls in a tweet as "rigged," Gallup’s numbers are mirrored by other surveys."

Rove specifically points to the president’s penchant to "punch down" from on high, which he opines is inappropriate for a leader, much less the President of the United States.

Beyond that, it is simply not good behavior. It is childish and bullying, and Mr. Trump is not liked in large part based on the things he tweets. He has turned himself into a target. This is the reason his Twitter account is imperiled, and should be abandoned at this juncture.

On January 15, the group Anonymous, a loose international network of activists and hacktivists, took to Twitter to warn President Trump: "This isn't the 80's any longer, information doesn't vanish, it is all out there. You are going to regret the next 4 years."

Now, at first blush this has nothing to do with the security of the president’s Twitter account. But as with all things digital, and by extension many things non-digital, the issue here is attackable surface. As I’ve discussed in many columns, and in my book, "Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves," every time you go on social media, you increase your attackable surface because there is that much more information about you "out there."

Anonymous is referring to findable information that could damage the president’s reputation. Mr. Trump is reputed to be a paper-and-pen guy, no email and no computer, other than the handheld he uses for Twitter. But all those tweets are out there, and hackers being a clever bunch, they may figure out how to crunch the data available from those tweets and burrow their way into Mr. Trump’s smartphone. There are also hours and hours of video of Mr. Trump (and I’m not talking about the disputed one that both Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin deny exists).

If you look at Mr. Trump from his detractors’ point of view — and the man has plenty — there is a whole lot of attackable surface out there.

My advice for the president is the same as my advice for everyone: reduce your attackable surface. The day you "get got" because of a tweet or a Facebook post will "big league" suck. Did you really need to broadcast whatever ended up being your weakest link? Of course you didn’t, but it happened.

The same question faces the 45th President of the United States. In a world filled with enemies — domestic and foreign — why make yourself more of a target than you already are? The answer is obvious.

Adam K. Levin is a consumer advocate with more than 30 years of experience and is a nationally recognized expert on security, privacy, identity theft, fraud, and personal finance. A former Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Levin is chairman and founder of CyberScout and co-founder of Credit.com. Levin is the author of Amazon Best Seller "Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves." Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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Without a doubt, President Trump’s Twitter account could be hacked. Let’s hope for his sake it doesn’t happen when he can’t look at his phone for a while, like say…during the inauguration.
president trump, twitter, hacking
Thursday, 19 January 2017 12:35 PM
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