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Twitter Gives Details On Phishing Attack

Social networking firm outlines exploit that forced many users to reset their passwords

Social networking giant Twitter yesterday gave an explanation for the forced reset of user passwords that it issued earlier this week.

In an unusual blog by Del Harvey, director of trust and safety, Twitter offered details on the phishing attack that occurred through torrent sites.

"It appears that for a number of years, a person has been creating torrent sites that require a login and password, as well as creating forums set up for torrent site usage," the blog says. The perpetrator then sold "these purportedly well-crafted sites and forums to other people innocently looking to start a download site of their very own," Harvey says.

"However, these sites came with a little extra -- security exploits and backdoors throughout the system," Harvey continues. "This person then waited for the forums and sites to get popular, and then used those exploits to get access to the username, email address, and password of every person who had signed up.

"Additional exploits to gain admin root [access] on forums that weren't created by this person also appear to have been utilized," the blog says. "In some instances, the exploit involved redirecting attempts to access the forums to another site that would request log-in information. This information was then used to attempt to gain access to third party sites like Twitter."

Twitter hasn't identified all of the forums involved, and it probably won't be able to, Harvey says. "But as a general rule, if you've signed up for a torrent forum or torrent site built by a third party, you should probably change your password there," he advises.

The lesson: Don't use the same email address and password on multiple sites, Harvey warns.

"Through our discussions with affected users, we've discovered a high correlation between folks who have used third party forums and download sites and folks who were on our list of possibly affected accounts," the blog says. "While not all users who were sent a password reset request fall into this category, we felt that it was important to put this knowledge out there, so that users would know of the possibility of compromise of their data by a third party unrelated to their Twitter account."

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About the Author(s)

Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading


Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one of the top cyber security journalists in the US in voting among his peers, conducted by the SANS Institute. In 2011 he was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Voices in Security by SYS-CON Media.

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