Technology

Twitter hack opens popups, causes havoc

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Twitter says it is once again safe for people to access its website after a massive attack Tuesday morning. Hackers, taking advantage of a security flaw, diverted users to visit porn sites, open pop-ups and send out random tweets.

It is estimated Tuesday morning's Twitter take-down affected at least 100,000 people worldwide and it was not just between everyday friends. At one point, Sarah Brown (wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown) Twitter feed was redirecting users to hardcore porn sites.

The hack hit well-known users here in the United States too.

"It's a major embarrassment when the White House press secretary has to send out a notice saying, 'Ignore my previous tweet,' that's a real problem," tech analyst Larry Magid said.

Magid says the problem arose from a vulnerability on Twitter's website, when hackers exploited a security flaw.

"Code was injected into their tweets, so if a user just moused over their tweet, they could be sent to a porn site or a pop-up message could come up," he said.

One Twitter user says he is glad he had not checked his account Tuesday morning. While he will not be affected now that Twitter says the flaw was fully patched, it is making users think twice about tweeting.

"The more and more I use it, the more I start to think of things like that, like, 'Oh maybe I could get something bad on Twitter,' but it seems like a relatively safe place," Ryan Lipert said.

The so-called "XSS" attack only affected visitors to Twitter's website. Those who used third-party software to send or read tweets were not affected.

While this flaw has been fixed, it may not be over. Some say the popular, fast-growing social medium is a target for hackers.

"This was one of many wake-up calls for Twitter; Twitter knows that they're under attack and they just have to have the best security possible," Magid said.

Nowadays many people use social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, not only to communicate with friends, but also for business purposes. So security breaches that cause embarrassing messages to be sent out can be even more damaging -- an incentive that analysts say should make Twitter jump to shore up its security even better.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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twitter, internet, technology, teresa garcia
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