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250,000 Twitter accounts compromised in sophisticated cyber attack

Published time: February 02, 2013 02:24
Edited time: February 02, 2013 06:24
AFP Photo / Lionel Bonaventure

AFP Photo / Lionel Bonaventure

Twitter has become the latest target of a sophisticated cyber attack, with around 250,000 accounts exposed. The breach appears to be the latest in a string of attacks on news content sites that’s being blamed on Chinese hackers.

­In its blog, Twitter has announced that it has detected “unusual access” patterns to user’s data and one live attack, which the company has successfully disabled. However, the company states that quarter of a million users have had their information hacked.

“This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident. The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organizations have also been recently similarly attacked,” statement explained.

As a precautionary security measure, Twitter has reset passwords and revoked session tokens for those accounts it believes were compromised. The company also warns of increased cyber-attack activity throughout the internet and encourages strengthening one’s account passwords.

The social media giant, which arguably revolutionized the news world with immediate access to information, concurs with the recent US Department of Homeland Security warning to disable Java on internet browsers. The company is also “helping government and federal law enforcement in their effort to find and prosecute these attackers to make the Internet safer for all users.”

Twitter fell short of accusing anyone of the attack, but indirectly indicated that it followed a pattern previously reported by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

On Wednesday, the NYT have announced that passwords and accounts of their staff have been infiltrated for four months by hackers from China.

The timing of the attacks coincided with an investigative report into the wealth of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister. 

The Times hired an expert to determine the source of the attack who concluded that “the attacks started from the same university computers used by the Chinese military to attack United States military contractors in the past.”

China’s Ministry of National Defense responded to the accusations “Chinese laws prohibit any action including hacking that damages Internet security.” It added that “to accuse the Chinese military of launching cyberattacks without solid proof is unprofessional and baseless,” NYT quotes.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal made similar accusations, “Chinese hackers believed to have government links have been conducting wide-ranging electronic surveillance of media companies including The Wall Street Journal.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was quoted by the WSJ as saying “Cyber-attacks are transnational and anonymous. It's very hard to track the source of attack,” he said. “To presume the source of a hacking attack based on speculation is irresponsible and unprofessional.” He added that “Chinese authorities make serious efforts in fighting cyber-attacks.”

Also on Thursday, Bloomberg announced that unsuccessful attempts had been made to access its system.

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