High profile Twitter users hit by hackers

News by Dan Raywood

Twitter has continued to be hit by hackers with high profile users attacked.

Twitter has continued to be hit by hackers with high profile users attacked.


The company has claimed that 33 accounts had been hacked, with US President-elect Barack Obama, American newsreader Rick Sanchez and pop star Britney Spears among those hit. Twitter claimed it had immediately locked down the accounts and had investigated the issue, and users were back in control of their accounts.


It claimed that it was different from the phishing scam that hit the site at the weekend, as the 33 accounts were compromised by a hacker who accessed support team tools, co-founder Biz Stone said: “We considered this a very serious breach of security and immediately took the support tools offline. We'll put them back only when they're safe and secure.


“In both cases, our on-call team was able to attend to the matter quickly and prevent too many people from being affected. Our support team is definitely going to have a busy week because we reset a bunch of passwords just to be on the safe side.”

The hackers changed the user's status, an offensive message was added to Ms Spears' page while Mr Sanchez's status read ‘I
am high on crack right now might not be coming into work today'.


Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said: “This is actually much more serious than these people and organisations falling for a simple phishing attack. It appears that Twitter's systems were potentially exposing everybody's account to the danger of being taken over by hackers - it's just that they chose some 33 high profile accounts to abuse with their defacements.


“What is still unclear is whether the person who hacked the accounts was an external hacker, or someone inside the Twitter organisation. Twitter seem convinced that it was an individual rather than a gang of criminals, so it may be that they have identified the person responsible.


“If so, they may choose to involve the authorities to see justice done for what was both a cruel and criminal act. Whether the full details of what actually happened are ever revealed remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain: Twitter has had an appalling start to 2009 from the security point of view.”


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