Online users should also be cautious of emails received from social media sites requesting a password change.

Every so often somebody embroiled in a firestorm over a jarring social media post responds with three words – “I was hacked.”

But how easy is it to “hack” a social media account?

Take‚ for example‚ a recent racist and homophobic tweet directed at Somizi‚ which unleashed a furious army of his supporters to hunt down a person who later said her account was compromised.

Australian Federal Police confirmed‚ just weeks ago‚ that the Twitter account of that country’s Health Minister Greg Hunt was not – as he protested earlier – hacked when it “liked” a hard-core porn tweet.

Jabu Mtsweni‚ a cyber expert for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research‚ said it was fairly easy for social media accounts to be accessed by somebody else.

“Actually the two topics (data leaks) and the easy access to other people’s email address or social media accounts is rather easy‚ and mostly because of poor passwords used by the Internet users‚” Mtsweni said.

He said when one considered the recent Gupta email leaks‚ that could also constitute illegal access to information.

“But also because today one can easily hire a hack on dark markets who can hack other people’s social media or email accounts. There are many incidents of this‚ and including our own current president‚ whose email accounts were hacked‚ but also the Gupta emails‚” he said.

“The other main problem is that social media or email accounts used by the general public are free and controlled by third parties‚ who sometimes do not take security seriously.

“Yahoo‚ as a free email service‚ has been hacked so many times in the past‚ exposing details of users publicly. Moreover‚ general users do not practise safe online behaviour‚ for example avoiding clicking of unknown links or adverts.

“In addition‚ users give their personal information out there for free‚ through various phishing scams. These are the order of the day and general users lack the necessary cyber security awareness to identify these online scams. So‚ in a nutshell‚ it is rather too easy for malicious actors to access one’s social medial or email accounts.”