Thousands of Twitter users watched the Burger King hack unfold, as "iThug" used hacker lingo to joke on the @BurgerKing Twitter account that McDonald's had acquired Burger King. It was a public spectacle and, as a result, Burger King's Twitter following grew by 30%.
After being shut down by Twitter for about 12 hours, the Twitter account came back online. The first thing BurgerKing tweeted was: "Welcome to all our new followers. Hope you stick around!"
Some accused Burger King of orchestrating the hack to gain publicity and Twitter followers. There's no evidence for that. But it's easy to see how orchestrating a fake hack could become a new method for getting viral publicity.
In fact, the Viacom cable stations MTV and BET did exactly that almost immediately after the iThug hack of Burger King. Just hours after Burger King came back online, the Twitter feeds of MTV and BET, were "hacked" in a faked and orchestrated hack attack.
After the Burger King hack but before the MTV fake hack, MTV's social media manager tweeted: "Is there any real downside to the @BurgerKing hack? Mistake leaving the account suspended all day, would have seen a nice follower windfall."
An hour after MTV started their fake attack, they fessed up and admitted the whole thing was a publicity stunt.
But what's to stop other companies from faking hacks and not admitting they were fake? Only their "ethics."
You can be sure that fake hack attacks on social media will occur as long as there are benefits to be gained.
The good news in all this is that all these hackers are pretty incompetent, according to reports. Even Mr. Gorilla and his colleagues are revealed to use sloppy hacking methods.
The bad news is that American companies are laughably easy to hack.
The timing of all this couldn't be better for Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt, who's got a new book coming out April 23 called "The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business."
Schmidt and his co-author Jared Cohen say flatly that the Chinese government is "the most sophisticated and prolific" hacker of foreign companies and that China's aggressive policy of stealing information from foreign businesses will leave the United States "disadvantaged economically" because of the American sense of "fair play."
So welcome to the new digital age. Cyber warfare, industrial espionage and state-sponsored hacking are suddenly just business as usual.