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Social networking hacks: Top 10 Facebook and Twitter security stories of 2009

Hackers, botnets, viruses and controversial "privacy" settings dominate headlines in '09

By , Network World
January 07, 2010 11:20 AM ET

Network World - Facebook and Twitter use skyrocketed in 2009, and naturally the social networking sites became magnets for hacker attacks and sparked other types of privacy concerns. CIOs have expressed doubts about the social networking sites, (see related story, Facebook, Twitter becoming business tools, but CIOs remain wary) and these stories show there is good reason to be worried. Here, in chronological order, are the top 10 security and privacy stories concerning Facebook and Twitter from the past year.

Jan. 6: Hackers hijack Obama's, Britney's Twitter accounts

Hackers gained control of more than 30 famous Twitter accounts, including those of Barack Obama, Britney Spears and Fox News. Twitter locked the accounts down quickly and restored control to their rightful owners, but not before the hacked accounts were used to send out nasty messages.

"CNN correspondent Rick Sanchez's account, for example, tweeted a message claiming that 'i am high on crack right now might not be coming to work today,' while Fox News' Twitter update reported 'Breaking: Bill O Riley [sic] is gay,' referring to the network's conservative talk show host," the IDG News Service reported.

Twitter said the accounts were hacked into using the company's own internal support tools. The breach was considered serious enough that Twitter took the support tools offline until they were secured.

April 11: Twitter wrestles with multiple worm attacks

Worm attacks kept Twitter's security team busy for several days, as the site scrambled to identify infected accounts and delete rogue tweets. "Early on Saturday, April 11, the Mikeyy worm started to spread via Twitter posts by encouraging you to click on a link to a rival micro-blogging service StalkDaily.com," PC World reported. "As soon as you clicked on the link your account would be infected and begin to send out similar messages encouraging your followers to visit StalkDaily. Then your followers would become infected and the worm's infection rate would grow. You could also catch the worm by viewing infected profiles on Twitter.com."

Four attacks were launched between April 11 and 13, but no user account information was stolen.

May 18: Phishers, viruses target Facebook users

This headline could probably be written any day of any year, but we'll just pick a story from May, when identity thieves hit Facebook with phishing attacks designed to gain passwords for profit. Other examples from 2009: A password reset e-mail reported in October turns out to be a virus; again in October some hacked Facebook applications were leading users to fake antivirus programs; and in November hackers used a sexy photo of a woman to lure people to an attack Web site.

July 15: Twitter/Google Apps hack raises questions about cloud security

Twitter executives were victimized when a hacker obtained and distributed more than 300 confidential documents that concerned Twitter's business affairs and were stored on the hosted Google Apps service. Insufficient password strength seemed to be the root cause, and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said Google was not to blame. The hacker reportedly also claimed to have compromised the Twitter accounts of co-founder Evan Williams, his wife and several employees. Williams denied this, but said his wife's e-mail account was compromised.

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