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Sophos: Latest Britney Spears Twitter hack highlights TwitPic weakness

June 2009 by Sophos

Sophos is reminding Twitter users to be cautious when using the site, following news that the account of pop star Britney Spears was compromised by an attack via third party website, TwitPic.

In a tasteless stunt that was seen by her two million followers, a hacker posted the following message to Spears’s Twitter stream earlier today:

’Britney has passed today. It is a sad day for everyone. More news to come.’

The picture on Britney Spears’s TwitPic account and the fake post to Twitter have since been deleted.

"The millions of people who follow celebrities on Twitter have to be grateful that all they witnessed this time was a sick prank by hackers," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "But this kind of vulnerability goes to show how simple it can be for hackers to break into accounts, which could then be used to expose followers to malicious web links containing malware or phishing pages. Although users should continue to be very careful when clicking on links in tweets, especially ones that have been obfuscated by link shortening services, this attack has demonstrated that services like TwitPic need to be doing more to protect their users."

The fake story of Britney’s death was posted to her Twitter followers via the TwitPic service, which automatically forwards messages to the associated Twitter account. There are a number of ways in which messages can be posted on TwitPic, including sending a picture to a unique email address. It is thought that hackers used this method to post the fake message, which would have involved cracking a four digit PIN code. Following the attack on Spears’s account, TwitPic announced that it has fixed a vulnerability with its email posting functionality.




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