An apparent hacking of a school superintendent’s Twitter account Wednesday caused a pornographic video to appear on his Twitter page.
After Academy School District 20’s front office received a complaint from a parent about an inappropriate image on Superintendent Mark Hatchell’s Twitter page, district officials tried to remove it but couldn’t, so the compromised account was temporarily shut down, D-20 spokeswoman Allison Cortez said Thursday.
A parent said the image was a video showing a woman performing oral sex and indicated Hatchell had “liked” it using an icon.
Cortez said a spambot – a computer robot – took control of the account.
“He had more than 5,000 to 6,000 people following him, and when you get that many followers, many of them are bots that can hack into your account and do false ‘likes,'” Cortez said.
D-20 officials reported the incident to Twitter, she said.
Such incidents are not uncommon. Porn spambots attacked 2,500 Twitter accounts with large followings in mid-May, including those of comedian Azeem Banatwala and pro football player Cecil Shorts III. The hacked accounts were replaced with porn and used to tweet links to adult dating sites. The victims had their display names changed, with their profile pictures swapped for pictures of scantily-clad women.
The San Francisco, Calif.-based social media service announced Thursday that it is improving security to protect users from online harassment.
D-20 staff will meet internally on Friday to consult with a social media specialist and discuss preventive strategies, Cortez said. Hatchell’s account was the only districtwide Twitter account.
“In the future, we’ll be talking about adding additional Twitter feeds,” Cortez said. “It was nice that his account allowed people to get to know the leader in a different way.”
Students liked the account, said parents who asked not to be identified. They said their children followed Hatchell to learn in real-time about snow days and other news happening in the district.
One parent said “countless students around the district took a screenshot of the image before Hatchell’s account went down Wednesday.
Cortez said it was an unfortunate situation but the district responded as quickly as it could to remove the offensive material, adding that the experience was an opportunity for the district to improve its online monitoring.
“He had such a great following,” she said, adding that Hatchell had posted an opening back-to-school rally after Monday’s start to the new school year.
“People were sharing it and creating goodwill, so it’s a platform that works, but you have to be really careful.”
A similar hacking happened at another local educational institution, Pikes Peak Community College, Cortez said, with inappropriate language appearing on a Twitter feed on the school’s website home page before it could be removed.