Trump, Twitter, and the Inevitable Chaos to Come
On April 23, 2013, at 1:07 PM the Associated Press was the first to report via Twitter that two explosions had just ripped through the White House. President Obama was injured.
No other information was available.
By 1:08 PM, Twitter users trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange reading the AP’s Tweet collectively lost their shit.
For the next 180 seconds, absolute chaos reigned.
By 1:11 PM, the US economy had lost approximately $318 BILLION in the ensuing panic. The Dow Jones Industrial dropped by almost 150 points.
But by 1:12 PM, the AP began refuting the legitimacy of it’s own tweet and soon other news organizations began reporting the entire incident was in fact a complete fabrication. There were no explosions, the president was absolutely fine, and in response to the news that the most powerful person in the world hadn’t been injured in an attack on the most heavily protected building in the world the markets quickly rebounded.
It was later revealed that the initial tweet which had inflicted such catastrophic forces on the US financial markets in as little as three minutes was the responsibility of the Syrian Electronic Army; a collective of hackers who routinely caused trouble around the internet in the name of, so they argued, aiding the regime Syrian
president dictator Bashar Al-Assad in that country’s civil war.
As a whole, the incident was largely shrugged off despite the enormous yet brief consequences wrought by a single, 60-character tweet. After all, Twitter accounts get hacked all the time.
…$318 billion gone…in just three minutes.
Flash forward to the present day:
Since being elected president, Donald Trump has transformed his Twitter account into an unprecedented economic and political cudgel. Whether it’s causing the stock values of Toyota and Lockheed-Martin to drop or shares in uranium mining to soar; @realdonaldtrump has the power to upend markets, coerce foreign governments, and potentially wreak unprecedented levels of havoc.
See, Twitter is remarkably easy to hack. Donald Trump would know:
From how-to videos on Youtube to an instructional website creatively titled Twitterhacking.com, breaking into individual accounts on the micro-blogging site doesn’t necessitate the sort of expertise employed by, say, state-sponsored Russian hackers working to interfere in an election or even a 400-pound guy on a couch…somewhere in New Jersey.
The exact same security measures are employed for all accounts regardless of the user’s notoriety, celebrity, or if they have personal access to the launch codes of a 4,000 warhead fleet of nuclear weapons.
The site’s glaring vulnerability to hackers has been proven again and again.
The aforementioned Syrian Electronic Army hacked the official Twitter accounts of the United Army and of President Obama in 2013, sending out several Tweets that linked followers to Pro-Assad websites.
A collective of hackers that includes a teenaged boy in Saudi Arabia routinely hacks the accounts of CEOs, business moguls, and celebrities in effort to seemingly draw attention to the websites lagging security.
And while there are security protocols Trump’s staff could employ to further encrypt sensitive accounts in the administration, Trump and a number of his top staff have failed to implement some of the most effective yet basic features, even those offered by Twitter. A hacker responsible for breaking into approximately 500 pro-ISIS Twitter accounts said to reporters today that Trump needs to upgrade his security features ASAP.
Consider that Trump’s insistence to continue using his extremely vulnerable Twitter account as a primary form of communication for everything from urging his followers to check out non-existent sex tapes to economic policy making makes it a target for a litany of potential predators, not just key-board jihadists:
Someone seeking to personally enrich themselves could hack the account and post a litany of condemnatory messages about this corporation or that, causing the stock values of competitors to sky rocket. After all, there is now an app called Trigger that alerts followers whenever the president Tweets about a publicly traded company. A deft observer of the markets could theoretically make a tidy fortune off of a single tweet.
Additionally, corporations wanting to engage in a little market manipulation of their own could engage in similar tactics, posting under the president’s handle to denigrate their competitors in order to increase the value of their own stocks.
Hackers acting on behalf of the direction of enemy nation states could sew discord and ratchet up existing tensions. Trump has displayed a repeated inability to adhere to long established decorums of tactical restraint when it comes to dealing with America’s adversaries. A hacked tweet declaring the deployment of military forces in a volatile region, an impending attack, or personally insulting a revered leader of figurehead could lead to actual conflict or violence in the period between the post is made and when its eventually refuted upon being discovered.
Even Leftist political opponents seeking to delegitimize Trump could use a hacked @realdonaldtrump to fire off a variety of inflammatory missives, alienating allies, further enraging critics, and casting doubt on the validity of any future tweets he posts. Considering that Trump’s twitter has been hacked before, his opponents might argue, who’s to say its not being hacked right now? The very word of the President could be devalued, forcing the American people and our allies to constantly take with a grain of salt everything he posts, wondering if it’s really Trump making these statements or someone posting under his guise.
One might assume that Trump and his national security team have considered these consequences regarding his erratic tweeting and taken the necessary precaution; but that assumption would apparently be wrong. As reported by Fox News, Trump is still carrying around his old, unsecured Android phone and members of staff, just like Hillary Clinton, routinely use private servers to send and receive emails.
Increasingly, Trump’s supporters are joining in among the diverse chorus of voices urging him to stop tweeting altogether. Whether it’s the perception that his inability to shrug off any attack and in turn need to childishly rant about is unbefitting of the Office of the President or that his repeated attacks on individual corporations is wholly antithetical to Conservative ideology that dictates an unregulated economy, not the government, should determine which companies succeed or fail, it would do all well remember what happened on April 23, 2013….
One tweet….3 minutes….$318 billion gone.