Text of New Cyber-Vandalism Response Toolkit

Disclaimer: This toolkit is only a collection of suggested best practices. No warranty is expressed or implied.

Cyber security for social media should be the #1 concern of anyone communicating online in this way. A federal working group has developed an outstanding guide, useful to any public or private organization. I want to help promote this message and so am cutting and pasting the text below; also posted it to SlideShare. You can customize it for your organization.

DigitalGov's Justin Herman brought the federal working group together; congrats to him and the team: Alla Goldman, Information Sharing Environment, Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Ashley Wichman, GSA; Dan Kenny, GSA Emerging Leader Program; me (I work at NIST); David Hamm, State of Minnesota; Debra Harris, Defense Finance and Accounting Services; Jacob Parcell, GSA; Jessica Milcetich, USA.gov; Jordan Higgins, Defense Intelligence Agency; Jody Bennett, Department of State; Justin Herman, GSA; Kat Mullins, USAJobs; Natasha Lim, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Scott Horvath, U.S. Geological Survey; Travis Brickey, Tennessee Valley Authority.

Read the article here:


Readiness, Recovery, Response: Social Media Cyber-Vandalism Toolkit
Version 1, released January 27, 2015 by DigitalGov


Cyber-vandalism presents a serious challenge to online-based communication tools. Users need available resources to counter intrusions of social media accounts. This document provides guidance and security practices to federal, state, and local government employees. Suggestions and resources prepare users to respond to cyber-hijacking. and will empower digital users to make informed choices and enact future policy. This resource is a “living document” designed for continued contribution and expansion — if you have input please email Justin Herman.

Readiness: Phase 1

Cyber-vandalism occurs when an outside party, regardless of identity or motive, takes control of an agency communication channel and misdirects it. Incidents may contain information misleading to the public or threatening to an agent of the United States. Agencies should plan and train prior to an incident, and prepare approved processes and material for the recovery and response to cyber-vandalism.

1. Identify a social media stakeholder team to prevent and respond to cyber-vandalism

A direct chain of responsible managers should be aware of their roles in the potential response to any social media cyber-vandalism, including the necessity of quick, decisive action. This team should be connected by email, phone, text and any other appropriate means of communication. The team should include, but is not limited to:

1. Social media team
2. Program manager
3. Public affairs representative
4. General Counsel
5. IT Security
6. Senior leader/manager

2. Review Individual App/Platform Resources

Online-based communication tools offer resources, each with unique strengths and limitations. Awareness of this support and their unique characteristics is beneficial before an incident:

1. Facebook: Facebook Security Tips; Facebook Security Settings; Learnextra security features including approvals, notifications, trusted contacts and mobile security
2. LinkedIn: LinkedIn Safety Center; Prevention Tips; Password Guidelines; Frequently Asked Questions | Reporting Inappropriate Content, Messages, or Safety Concerns
3. Instagram: Instagram Privacy & Safety Center
4. Twitter: Safe tweeting: the basics
5. Google: Keeping your account secure
6. Hootsuite: Social Media Security

3. Establish Stakeholder Rapid Outreach Plan

1. Prepare a list of internal and external contacts and processes for a cyber-vandalism incident:
§ Who is the POC for the app or platform when an incident occurs (see Phase 2: Recovery for list)?
§ Who is the POC for cyber-vandalism of accounts in the Government (see Phase 2: Recovery for list)?
§ Who is on your social media stakeholder team?
§ Who are your key communities and audiences on social media and other channels you must alert?

2. Incorporate relevant contact information:

§ Emails; Phone Numbers; Social Media Handles; Hashtags; Listservs and more.

4. Create Communication Templates

1. Pre-populate different types of messages.

§ Emails; Texts; Social media posts and more.

2. Communicate essential information to convey the nature of the compromise, for example:

§ An account is compromised; An administrator cannot access an account; A username and/or password for an account is compromised; Information on the account is unauthorized.

5. Review Secure Social Media Best Practices Checklist

1. Institutionalize secure web standards, such as HTTPS, as a foundation for secure social media:

§ Using an URI scheme, such as HTTPS, establishes a fast, private, and secure connection due to its strong encryption benefits

§ Read Why We Use HTTPS in Every Gov Website We Make

2. Establish accounts with official .gov or .mil domains of full-time equivalent employees (FTE) .

§ Allow for more than one FTE to administer an account.

§ Designate an alternative as auxiliary support. Limit this designation to an individual essential to the operation and management of an account.

§ Clearly define the criteria for the administrator and alternative.

§ Provide adequate resources to the FTE administrator, including a mobile device and third-party management tool whenever possible.

3. Create a social media policy with standard operating procedures (SOP) for cyber-security.

4. Obtain approval from appropriate agency parties, including IT Security and General Counsel

5. Train stakeholders and others on the procedures and policies of social media cyber-security.

§ Require training before use of an account.

6. Use only authorized URL Shorteners, e.g. go.USA.gov.

7. Add all official accounts to the Federal Social Media Registry, verifying authenticity of ownership.

§ This tool, used by both Facebook and Google to verify accounts, tracks official federal social media accounts.

§ List Department of Defense (DoD) social media accounts in theDoD Social Media Site Registry.

o Per DOD Web Policy and DoDI 8550.01 , use DoD Social Media Registry submission form.

8. Follow best practices for secure passwords.

§ Guide to Enterprise Password Management (Draft) by the National Institute of Standards and Technology

6. Evaluate Two-Step Verification

This type of authentication verifies a user attempting to access a device or system. It requires confirmation of two consecutive, yet dependent, entries. It may not be applicable to those without mobile devices or in secure environments prohibited entry of such items. It may also require the use of third-party management tools to effectively allow multiple content coordinators.

1. Facebook: Facebook’s Login Approvals; ZDnet.com supplemental step-by-step guide.

2. Google and YouTube: Google 2-Step Verification.

3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn’s Two Step Verification.

4. Twitter: Twitter’s Two Step Verification Process.

7. Review Special Guidance Per Common User Responsibility

For Supervisors and Directors: Confirm policy is clear, accessible, and distributed among employees. Review, approve, and document all agency accounts regularly. Identify and eliminate rogue accounts. Instruct staff administering accounts to adhere to agency criteria and undergo training where appropriate.

For Social Media Managers: Make security a part of regular social media meetings. Conduct security checks on a regular basis. Regularly update passwords. Keep the list of social media accounts updated. Keep account manager contact information accessible and updated. Remove access for users who are no longer with the agency. Develop a secure method of storing account names, owners, and passwords.

For Social Media Coordinators: Use a protected, official government device. Use protected connections. Do not post from an open Wifi network. Use a work VPN, 3G or the work-connected Internet connection. Generally, use network locations with strong firewalls and on standalone equipment. Preview shortened links to see the address of where they lead. Review the URL of a website in the address bar. Make sure the websites you visit use HTTPS encryption. If you are unsure of a link, double click the lock icon on your browser’s status bar to display the digital certificate for a site.

8. Conduct Training on Secure Use of Social Media

Live training: Cybersecurity Online Learning (COL) program supplements mandatory FISMA security role-based training by offering in-demand cybersecurity workshops. The Information Assurance Branch, United States Department of State, offers monthly social media security online courses for free for anyone with a “.mil” or “.gov” email address, regardless if the applicant is an FTE, military, or contractor.

§ Department of Defense Social Media Security/Privacy Education & Training

§ Consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

§ OnGuardOnline.gov

§ National Cyber Awareness System

§ Antiphishing.org

§ Webinar: Operations Security (OPSEC) & Social Media: Balancing Security, Secrecy, & Transparency

§ Webinar: How to Recover from a Social Media Crisis

§ Webinar: How Government Can Prepare for and Respond to Social Media Hacks

§ Post: Beware the Cyber Security House of Horrors

§ Post: Twitter’s Two Step Verification Process

§ Post: Government Must Respond Rapidly to Social Media Hacking

Recovery: Phase 2

Alerts of suspicious activity on social media can come from anywhere, including social media itself. If the social media cyber-security stakeholder team or responsible manager determines an incident is in progress, remember that minutes and even seconds count. Within minutes you’ll need to alert internal stakeholders, alert outside stakeholders to help you regain control, and act to isolate the compromise.

1. Immediately: Alert your social media cyber-security stakeholder team, and CC them on following messages.

2. Attempt to change passwords to isolate the incident (steps 2 and 3 ideally simultaneously with two employees)

3. Contact the platform companies themselves and GSA to help regain control.

1. Contact Information to Recover Control After Cyber-Vandalism

1. Facebook: Online form for Facebook; Email government@FB.com; Email justin.herman@gsa.gov and betsy.steele@gsa.gov

2. Twitter: Online form for Twitter; Email: Gov@Twitter.com; Email justin.herman@gsa.gov and betsy.steele@gsa.gov

3. LinkedIn: Respond to and Report Various Issues; Email: LCSHelp@linkedin.com; Email: mcirrito@linkedin.com; Email justin.herman@gsa.gov and betsy.steele@gsa.gov

4. Instagram: Online form for Instagram; Email: government@FB.com; Email justin.herman@gsa.gov and betsy.steele@gsa.gov

5. Vine: Online form for Vine; Email: Gov@Twitter.com; Email justin.herman@gsa.gov and betsy.steele@gsa.gov

6. Hootsuite: Email: Support@hootsuite.com; Email sajji.hussein@hootsuite.com; Email justin.herman@gsa.gov and betsy.steele@gsa.gov

2. Audit your social media inventory

1. Audit your list of social media accounts, password holders, agency hosted websites.

2. Ensure no former employees, contractors or interns have access to current passwords.

3. Review any third-party app you use to monitor or post to social media, such as IFTTT.

4. Review your other digital services, including websites, for signs of cyber-vandalism and any vulnerabilities.

3. Confirm cyber-vandalism recovery process on different channels

Once securing your other accounts, release pre-approved initial messages alerting your communities that an incident is occurring and that steps are underway in order to recover cyber-vandalized accounts.

4. Initiate Restoration Activities After Regaining Account(s)

1. Archive cyber-vandalism messages.

2. Delete cyber-vandalism messages.

3. Stop all pre-scheduled messages.

4. Restore normal settings and features.

Response: Phase 3
Agencies must not only prepare for and recover social media accounts after a cyber-vandalism incident, they should also quickly and effectively respond to their stakeholders and audiences as soon as possible using social media in order to maintain trust in digital services. Initial responses to the cyber-security stakeholder team and the public should be within minutes of recovering control of your accounts.

1. Confirm Incident and Recovery

1. Cyber-security team confirmation: Send initial report of recovery to social media cyber-security stakeholder team.

2. Public confirmation: Distribute as soon as possible social media posts confirming the cyber-vandalism incident and your recovery of affected accounts. Announce a return to regularly scheduled activities.

3. Community confirmation: Deliver additional communication with pre-determined internal audiences and stakeholders to prevent the spread of rumors and misinformation.

2. Confirm and Verify Changes to Access

1. Review account holders.

2. Confirm verification of login status.

3. Confirm changes and updates of passwords.

3. Conduct a review of lessons learned

§ What type of response worked well?

§ Why did this work so well?

§ What did not work?

§ What unforeseen events occurred?

§ What changes will lead to a better response?

4. Apply data and analysis of outcomes to improving your program

§ Develop after-action report.

§ Ensure future relevance with accurate information.

§ Include lessons learned and best practices.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, www.AllThingsBrand.com and www.DannielleBlumenthal.com, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.