Anyone else getting pretty fed up with the number of headlines both online and in the print media which have been exclaiming 'Twitter hacked' this week? I have even just got a press release, from a storage systems company of all things, that has the strap line of "Twitter hack caused by lack of security" and starts "News that Twitter has been hacked yet again comes as no surprise." Well it comes as something of a surprise to me, to be honest, not least considering that Twitter has not actually been hacked at all.
It is surely stretching both journalistic and marketing license to the limit to proclaim that Twitter has been hacked when in actual fact the security breach was concerning a Google Apps account? Yes, that account was operated by a Twitter employee and, yes, the 300 Google Docs documents stolen include projected Twitter annual revenues for 2013.
Embarrassing for the chap concerned without a doubt, not the greatest thing that can happen to a company for sure, a Twitter hack? Not on your nelly.
Twitter founder Biz Stone concedes that "an administrative employee here at Twitter was targeted and her personal email account was hacked" which allowed the hacker to gain enough personal detail to "access to this employee's Google Apps account which contained Docs, Calendars, and other Google Apps Twitter relies on for sharing notes, spreadsheets, ideas, financial details and more within the company." Specifically, the employee used the same non-unique password on multiple services. Doh!
So Twitter was guilty of not ensuring that employees were, perhaps, as careful with personal information from the security perspective as they should have been. Twitter really is not alone in this regard and the company has performed a security audit to remind employees of this. Indeed, I understand that random password generators as well as two-factor authentication for more sensitive systems are now mandatory at Twitter HQ.
Biz Stone is quick to point out that the attack "had nothing to do with any vulnerability in Google Apps" which it continues to use, and insists that it was more about "Twitter being in enough of a spotlight that folks who work here can become targets." Indeed, he reveals that at the same time the personal email account of the wife of Twitter co-founder Evan Williams was hacked and the hacker gained access to some personal accounts such as Amazon and PayPal. Stone continues "This isn't about any flaw in web apps, it speaks to the importance of following good personal security guidelines such as choosing strong passwords."
Amen to that.
So let's just reiterate, in case any mainstream media journos want to correct their stories: no Twitter user accounts were compromised, not even mine, this was not an attack on the Twitter service although it did involve the theft of Twitter company documents.
Twitter is currently consulting with legal counsel about "what this theft means for Twitter, the hacker, and anyone who accepts and subsequently shares or publishes these stolen documents" as publishing documents."
Amen to that as well. While moonfruit did not destroy Twitter misdirected media attention could certainly cause company damage.