The 48,727 followers of the NASA Astronaut account on Twitter expect to hear about updates on astronaut activity and get some personal insight from the astronauts themselves. They probably were not expecting to be bombarded by spacemen offering to sell them plasma and LCD flat-screen TVs at bargain prices however.
Yet that is exactly what happened yesterday during a totally bizarre couple of hours when the official Nasa_Astronauts account at Twitter was hacked by a bunch of very terrestrial spammers.
A series of tweets, purporting to come from the astronauts themselves, were published which all appeared to offer either TV sets or TV accessories for sale via auction. The tweets included a shortened bit.ly link which ended up on eBay where the goods were being auctioned.
But things take another twist when you follow the links to those auction items, as I did, because rather than being actual television sets for sale what was being auctioned were 'wholesale lists' of TVs for sale. Such listings are often used as scams to attract bidders who see the picture of a big TV and the words Plasma Flat-Screen TV and a very low buy-it-now price, and ignore the description detail. It didn't take too long for Houston to realise there was a problem, and a post soon appeared that stated: "Our apologies for the odd Twitter behavior earlier. We have fixed the problem. Back to tweets from NASA astronauts".
The offending spam tweets have now also been removed, although NASA itself is saying nothing as to how the hack was perpetrated in the first place. Most Twitter hacks are related to stolen passwords , which have been appropriated either through the use of rogue third party applications or the use of stupid passwords. One wit suggested that NASA might have been using 10987654321 .
At least it doesn't look like Gary McKinnon was involved , another NASA hacking accusation might ruin any chance he has of avoiding extradition from the UK to the USA.