Barack Obama has something in common with Meghna Naidu and Miley Cyrus. All their Internet accounts were recently hacked into, making communication through them either difficult or impossible. Increasingly, it seems that celebrities who sign on to social networking sites make themselves predisposed to Internet miscreants.
If it’s not hacking, it’s either fake accounts or lewd messages from anonymous users. Like the tweet Karan Johar received last month from a user asking him to describe the colour of his “lingerie”.
Crime experts say tracking down the perpetrators is tedious. For starters, to ensure safety, celebrities are advised to create a Twitter account even if they won’t use it. The same is true if they are starting a new film, for instance, that people will associate with them.
“Usernames are sometimes puns on celebrity names, and they get publicised. Watch closely for activity on accounts that might be trying to impersonate you,” says cyber crime evangelist Vijay Mukhi. Users should also create a strong password that isn’t easy to guess, and keep away from websites where the browser warns them of malicious content.
Rudrajeet Desai, CEO of Ideacts Innovations, reckons that sometimes it’s not the account that has been hacked into, but the computer. According to him, Twitter and Facebook have a complex system of servers hacking into which is virtually impossible. “A celebrity won’t admit to having downloaded a dialler or visited an infected site before his account was hacked. So it’s possible that the hacker broke into the computer through the site and later hacked into the accounts,” Desai says.
With Internet crime, experts say the main problem is that of jurisdiction; an account that is hacked or a comment that is posted from a foreign country is difficult to track. “On the web, you can be anonymous, and you’ll never be caught. The police, too, sometimes don’t have the wherewithal to fight such crimes,” adds Mukhi.
To stay safe, users need to run antivirus checks, use multiple browsers and clear the cache regularly. If you use the auto sign-in feature, sign in manually sometimes to refresh the cookies. “Watch what programs you download and the sites you access. If you use Google Chrome for Twitter, then use Mozilla Firefox for Facebook,” adds Desai.
If nothing else works, Mukhi suggests that celebrities should be thick-skinned about comments. Reportedly, actor Lara Dutta also went off Twitter after a stalker inundated her with disturbing messages. So did Neil Nitin Mukesh, whose Twitter account was hacked recently. Says Johar, “There are a lot of depressed people on Twitter. Fortunately, you can always block or unfollow them.”