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Twitter Attacked by French Hacker

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DateFriday, May 01, 2009


Sophos is advising that Twitter hardens its security as a French hacker claims he broke into Twitter's internal administration system, enabling him to access the accounts of millions of Twitter users - including Barack Obama, Britney Spears, Ashton Kutcher and Lily Allen.



The hacker - known as 'Hacker Croll' - claims that he was able to access Twitter's internal administration system after stealing a password from a staffer at the micro-blogging website. It is alleged that by resetting the employee's Yahoo password after guessing his 'secret question', Hacker Croll found the information about the staffer's Twitter login credentials.



Claims appear to be confirmed by screenshot images uploaded to a French blog, which give a glimpse into the micro-blogging site's admin panel revealing that the likes of Kutcher and Allen have blocked other Twitter users, such as celebrity gossipmonger Perez Hilton, from contacting them. Amongst the private information accessible was the email addresses of compromised accounts, mobile phone numbers (if one was associated with the account), and the list of accounts blocked by the affected user.



This is just the latest in a string of security issues at Twitter in recent months, and the website is surely in danger of losing the confidence of its users who will be rattled by yet another breach.



Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos said, "Just like with the recent Twitter worm outbreaks, this is not so much a case of Twitter raising awareness amongst its many users about sensible online security, but learning a few lessons itself. Careless security by the micro-blogging site could potentially put millions of Twitter users at risk."



Sophos advises that Twitter's internal security could be improved if staff were forced to log in using authentication tokens that provide a randomly generated key upon login, meaning that even if a staffer's username and password is compromised hackers would not be able to gain access.



"If a Twitter employee loses their password, it seems hackers can run riot on the site and cause all sorts of problems. By making staff adopt the kind of hardware authentication keys that many online banking customers now need to use to login online, Twitter would make it far less likely that an attack like this could succeed," explained Cluley.



"But let's not forget, although many will blame Twitter for not ensuring that its staff followed sensible policies to better secure critical administrator accounts, the real criminal here is Hacker Croll."



Twitter CEO Biz Stone confirmed the breach in a blog post Thursday afternoon. He wrote, "This week, unauthorized access to Twitter was gained by an outside party.Our initial security reviews and investigations indicate that no account information was altered or removed in any way. However, we discovered that 10 individual accounts were viewed during this unauthorized access."




Recently, reported on Twitter Worm Boy, Michael 'Mikeyy' Mooney (read more) being rewarded with a web developer job  - this could spell disaster for Twitter as hackers will see the website as a legitimate target to help them get into the international limelight.






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