Hackers create chaos on Twitter with 'worm' attacks
Wednesday 22 September 2010
The information-rich world of Twitter was almost converted into total gobbledegook yesterday as hackers took advantage of a security flaw to create self-replicating "worms" that automatically posted themselves to users' accounts.
Any Twitter user who hovered their cursor over the unintelligible messages immediately risked spreading them to the accounts of their own followers. At its peak, over 100 such messages were being generated every second, causing consternation among the Twitter community, who rely on the service for everything from breaking news to inconsequential amusement.
The effects of the worm ranged from harmless messing about to malicious redirects to unsavoury websites; at one point Sarah Brown, wife of the former PM, unwittingly guided her 1.1 million devoted followers towards a Japanese pornography site. "Don't touch the earlier tweet," she posted later. "This twitter feed has something very odd going on!"
Odd indeed – but also something that was easily preventable, and which will have caused embarrassment to Twitter in the week following the much-publicised roll-out of its relaunched website.
The way Twitter works meant that the biggest damage was wrought by those with the largest number of followers. Sarah Brown was the most notable, but others included former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs ("Absolutely no clue why it sent that message or even what it is") and comedian David Mitchell ("Apologies... more evil robots, basically. Get used to them, I say.")
Users who had already been granted access to the new-look version weren't affected, and nor were those who interact with the service using applications on their computers or mobile devices. The worm targeted those who still access their accounts by logging on to the main Twitter site – the vast majority – hence the worms' rapid spread.
This type of attack is known as XSS or "cross-site scripting", and is by far the most common way for web security to be compromised. If a hacker can find a way to execute a script on a website, that script can gain access to sensitive details that the browser might be holding on our behalf – including, as was the case here, the ability to automatically post messages on Twitter.
Twitter patched this particular vulnerability within three hours, but XSS attacks will continue to affect users of popular websites; there will always be geeks keen to wreak havoc for financial gain.
Life & Style blogs
Replica cars: The 'new classics' roaring back into the lead
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: which is the best?
Jennifer Lawrence nude pictures leaked: Reddit removes 'The Fappening' board dedicated to sharing naked pictures of celebrities
Anal sex study reveals climate of 'coercion'
Headaches, fry ups, and hair of the dog - why do we get hangovers, and is there such thing as a 'cure'?
George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained in Los Angeles after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Scottish independence: Britain faces 'constitutional crisis' at next election
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
- 1 Amy Winehouse statue unveiled in Camden
- 2 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 3 George Galloway on Scottish independence: The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
- 4 Headaches, fry ups, and hair of the dog - why do we get hangovers, and is there such thing as a 'cure'?
- 5 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager (Product Ma...
£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Senior C++ Developer – L...
£65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...
£32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has bee...