Ed Miliband becomes target of hackers bent on embarrassing politicians

'I've been having better sex and longer with this here' 'Ed Miliband', Friday morning / 'Oh dear, I've fallen victim to Twitter's latest scam' Ed Miliband, two hours later

It was supposed to be the "cool" way for MPs to reconnect with the people, a way to persuade a sceptical public that they were "down with the kids" and keen to embrace the digital age.

But in the past month, more and more bewildered politicians have found that using the micro-blogging website Twitter can lead to embarrassment.

Yesterday, Ed Miliband became the latest victim of a "Twitterjacking" scam which has caught out a series of politicians including the Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman.

Logging in to their Twitter accounts over breakfast, the Energy Secretary's 6,664 followers were greeted with an enthusiastic message apparently sent from his computer, the content of which was enough to make them splutter into their cornflakes.

Alongside a picture of a smiling Mr Miliband, the message read: "Hhey [sic], i've been having better sex and longer with this here," followed by a link to a website. The embarrassed minister moved quickly to reassure his followers, admitting: "Oh dear it seems like I've fallen victim to Twitter's latest 'phishing' scam."

In a sign of how quickly the problem can spread, only a few hours later the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, Willie Rennie, had sent an identical message to more than 4,000 of his followers, including local volunteers and parents. "I've had lots of reaction and they say no publicity is bad publicity, but it's been a bit embarrassing," he told STV News.

On Thursday, the Glasgow South MP, Tom Harris, wrote a blog entry in which he joked about a sexual proposition he had received from The Independent on Sunday's political columnist John Rentoul as part of the scam – only to fall prey to it himself shortly afterwards. His Twitter entry read: "Tom Harris MP. Hot, horny, 24-year-old Independent journalist looking for good time..."

Harriet Harman told MPs on Thursday that her account had sent a bogus message to the shadow Prisons minister, Alan Duncan. She was responding to a question from the Labour MP Janet Anderson, who urged the Government to look into a website which she said had set up false Twitter accounts in the names of all North-west MPs.

The site, which is called The Year of Collaboration, describes itself as being run by "a collective of techies in the North-west who build things on the internet". It has set up "holding" profiles in the name of MPs who are not already using Twitter in the hope of persuading them to join.

A statement on the site says: "If you're an MP with a holding Twitter account, we'd be very happy to hand over the 'keys' – please email us from your House of Commons email account, and ... we'll send you the username and password for the account." Ms Harman said she would tell ministers to investigate.

Because Twitter functions as a social network – most users are linked to hundreds of others, who are linked to hundreds more – the messages can spread rapidly from politicians to lobby journalists and others in the media with whom they communicate.

In one instance, the news editor of a national newspaper was sent a private message from the Twitter account of the media commentator Roy Greenslade. The message appeared to be an honest attempt to confirm the authenticity of his account, reading simply: "This you?"

Another less subtle example, sent from the account of a journalist at The Guardian newspaper, read: "hi, i'm 24/female/horny...i have to get off here but message me on my windows live messenger name". An identical message was sent by several journalists in the parliamentary lobby, to the amusement of their friends and colleagues.

The attacks usually come in the form of private messages with a short greeting and a link to a cloned version of the Twitter website, which asks the user to enter their username and password. Once this is done, the hackers have full access to the person's account and can use it to send out messages – which can be read by thousands of the victim's followers.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at security firm Sophos, said: "With an election coming up, [MPs] want to appear down with the kids and use new technology to reach out to people more effectively. But they need to go back to the classroom to learn about basic computer security. Too many of them are being a little bit lackadaisical."

Yesterday, Gordon Brown's spokesman said security checks were being carried out on the 10 Downing Street Twitter account as well as that of the Prime Minister's wife.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album