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Posts Tagged ‘Security & Privacy’

Hacker Leaks Details Of 15,000 Twitter Accounts; A Quick 3-Step Guide To Protect Your Account Right Now

On Tuesday, a hacker from Mauritania gained access to more than 15,000 Twitter accounts’ user IDs and the associated OAuth tokens used to connect Twitter accounts to third-party services.

The self-dubbed Mauritania Attacker published his haul, which does not include Twitter user passwords, online.

Below, more details on the situation and how to protect your account right now.

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Easy New Year’s Resolution: Clean Up Your App Permissions With One Handy App

The New Year is a great time to take stock of your Twitter account, making sure your bio is optimized, your avatar is a good reflection of you and the list of who you follow is honed.

One easy first Twitter New Year’s Resolution is to clean up your Twitter permissions – in fact, all your social media permissions – with an all-in-one app called MyPermissions.

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Five Predictions For Twitter In 2010

Twitter has come a long, long way in 2009, maturing from a simple status updating service to a fully-fledged news broadcasting system that is as pivotal and informative to the global media as it is to the general public. The social network is now arguably the hottest thing on the internet as we move into the heady days of 2010.

As any network grows, it’s forced to change and adapt. Here are five predictions I’m making that we will see on Twitter in 2010.

Twitter Will Start To Become Profitable

Twitter Will Start To Become Profitable In 2010Twitter’s deals with Microsoft and Google in 2009 mean that a good chunk of money is finally hitting their bank accounts. Other features they’ll add in 2010, including premium accounts for businesses (see below), improved metrics and a deeper (and billable) integration into television and other mainstream media, will ensure the pot never runs dry.

It won’t be huge in 2010, but I would expect $150-250m in profit by the end of the year.

(If they’re not making at least $100m in clear profit, my gut tells me they’ll be bought.)

The Difference Between Media And Social Media Will Continue To Blur

The Difference Between Media And Social Media Will Continue To BlurI’ve written about this in some detail before, and we already saw significant evidence of this in 2009, but as the newspaper industry is forced to adapt a ‘live or die’ attitude to survive the difference between old and social media will blur to a point of invisibility. Already many major newspapers (The Telepgraph, New York Times, The Guardian and, yes, amazingly, The Daily Mail) are seeing and capitalising on the value of internet-appealing editorials and reportage, be that in the form of using Twitter (and other networks) to break and share news first, or through good old-fashioned link bait.

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5 Ways To Protect Yourself For The Next Time Twitter Gets Hacked

Details are currently still a bit sketchy but Twitter was allegedly hacked overnight.

5 Ways To Protect Yourself For The Next Time Twitter Gets Hacked

As you can see, all indications point to the “Iranian Cyber Army” but my gut feeling tells me that a very different entity is likely the culprit. There’s also some talk that Twitter itself was not hacked at all, but that the domain name itself was simply re-routed to another server (now confirmed by Twitter), allowing the invaders to display their message.

But why take the risk?

Unfortunately, Twitter has a bit of a history with lousy security protocols. In just the past few months, major internal documents have been leaked, Twitter was stopped with a DOS attack, Jonathan Ross accidentally unveiled his email address and was then unable to remove it, and the admin team thought that the word “password” was good enough to use as an, uh, password. Twitter is very much a work in progress, but you don’t see this stuff happening on Facebook.

Here are five ways to protect your Twitter account now for the next time this happens.

1. Change Your Password Regularly

It makes sense to change your Twitter password on a regular basis – certainly every month or two. And change it to something that is hard to break, and made up of 10 mixed characters of letters and numbers – I recommend using this website, which is free and generates superb passwords.

2. If You Use The Same Password On Twitter For Other Websites, Change Them

We still don’t know if Twitter has been properly hacked, but if it has your data might have been compromised. This means that your email address and password may well be in the hands of somebody who wants to do bad things with them. So, if you’ve been using the same password on Twitter that you have for, say, your Facebook page, blog, or worse, your bank account, you should go there and change them right now.

And stop doing that – while it’s convenient, it’s far too much of a risk to use the same password for everything on the internet. If you have a lot to lose – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – consider a premium service like 1Password.

3. Don’t Openly Share Sensitive Information

This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often people discuss private security data on an open public platform like Twitter. You casually chatting with friends about why you hate your HSBC bank account tells everybody else that you (duh) bank with HSBC. Boasting that you’re about to spend two weeks in Barbados tells everybody else that your house is going to be unmanned for a fortnight.

Think before you tweet. Think about who might be reading this information – what is the worst thing they could do with it?

4. Don’t Panic

The thing that concerned me most during the Mikeyy exploit was how so many high-profile accounts (including celebrities and social media ‘gurus’) were sharing damaging and outright false information about the incident, which led to a lot of unnecessary panic.

While it’s absolutely normal to be concerned about your private data during events like this, analysing and evaluating the situation in a calm and intelligent manner is essential. Be careful what you retweet. Double-check everything twice. Don’t assume somebody else knows what is going on, no matter who they are. Find out for yourself.

5. Don’t Be That Guy

As above, it’s easy during situations like this to panic and start retweeting and spreading any old nonsense around the interwebs. Don’t be that guy. Don’t make things worse by initiating or sharing poorly-consider opinion and hyperbole. Make sure the information you are passing on to your network is as accurate as possible at the time it is delivered.

YOU need to be the voice of reason. If you’re running around like a headless chicken, talking about alien invasion and/or the apocalypse, then YOU are part of the problem. Try to be the solution. And if no reasonable information is forthcoming, avoid crazy speculation, certainly if you’re seen as an authority by your network.

After all, you want things to stay that way, right?

With Social Media, You’re Always On Camera

Social media is the virtual Big Brother. You get involved, you get comfortable, you get complacent, and suddenly you forget that you’re on camera 24/7, 365 days a year.

It’s very easy to make a mistake. We all do it. Everybody slips up from time to time.

Solution: be smart about who you invite into your online communities. If you’re mixing business (employer, associates, clients) with pleasure (friends, family, relationships) on the same network it’s disturbingly easy for something to go wrong. And even if you’re the very epitome of decorum, somebody else can very easily ruin things for you. This doesn’t have to be intentionally malicious – an innocent act like sharing a photograph where you perhaps don’t come off particularly well can do major damage to your status and reputation.

(This is particularly true on Facebook. Pay careful attention to your privacy settings.)

Twitter is an open network, and as such it doesn’t lend itself to being overly personal or bold. Be yourself, but be the best version of who that is. With more and more employers using social media to research job candidates, you cannot afford to be casual. Doing something stupid on the internet isn’t just for Christmas: it’s for life.

I’m not a fan of online anonymity, particularly in the comment sections of websites. But if you’re concerned about the implications of your personal life impacting on your professional it might be the right thing to do. You may also wish to consider protecting your updates on Twitter.

(It’s worth noting that both of these measures will likely have a negative impact on your potential to do business within social media.)

Let me be clear: it’s absolutely fine to friend your boss. Broadening your relationship beyond the limitations of the office can actually enhance your career. Enjoy the company of your colleagues? Want to impress your clients? Go ahead and friend them online.

But here’s the thing: you can never, ever forget that you’re being watched. All of the time.

We Wuz Hacked

Timing is everything. My Samsung NC10 netbook had a massive fail yesterday, which left me unable to access this blog (or, indeed, the internet), and some charming individuals seized this opportunity to hack into Twittercism and add some rather nasty exploits.

I couldn’t get the blog or (more worrying) the admin panel to load at all. Wherever I went, I just got an error message.

Even better, Google decided to mark the domain as a malware risk, which obviously has some impact on traffic.

Fortunately, the exploit, which attempted to load a file from the website, was fairly easy to track down, and I removed it manually via FTP.

If you’re a WordPress user impacted by this issue, I recommend two courses of action:

  1. Check your default-filters.php, default-widgets.php and pluggable.php files (all are located in the wp-includes folder), as well as the main index.php file in your theme. I had a single line of code at the very bottom of all of these files (which starts with <iframe... and linked to a file at Remove it (carefully), save and re-upload your file(s).
  2. Always make sure you upgrade to the latest version of WordPress. I was using WordPress 2.8.3, which is only a single upgrade behind the current version (2.8.4), but it was enough to allow others to have a sneaky in.

Despite Google’s concerns, the exploit never actually loaded. It simply presented an error message. So, if you happened to visit Twittercism during this period, don’t worry. Nothing bad happened. But the sites ( and are known to Google and the warning was legitimate, if a little excitable.

Of course, I’m certainly not in bad company with my blog being hacked. But it’s a lesson learned. Always make sure your online security is top-notch, as the crap has a nasty habit of hitting the fan at exactly the wrong time.

POLL: Why Do YOU Block Somebody On Twitter?

In a recent article I wrote about the limitations of the block mechanism on Twitter. This is an issue because as the network grows in popularity it begins to attract more of the same kinds of ‘problem people’ we see elsewhere within the internet – spammers, trolls, nasty folk and good old-fashioned weirdos.

When I first started using Twitter, I rarely blocked anybody – now, for various reasons, I’m blocking several people each day. It’s those reasons that I want to address in this poll.

Specifically, why do YOU block somebody on Twitter?

(Please check as many reasons as apply.)

Please share any reasons personal to you that I have not covered in the comments area below.

Come On @Twitter – Can’t You Just Block ALL The “Horny Hottie” And Britney Video @Spam Bots?

I opted out of Twitter’s ‘new follower’ emails a few weeks ago, preferring instead to sign up for SocialToo, which gives me a once-a-day email digest of new followers (and, more importantly, unfollowers, too). I wrote an article about my reasons, which you can read here.

During the day, I monitor my new followers on, and what I’m seeing lately is pretty disturbing – more and more spam. But specifically, it’s more and more of the same spam, namely the “Horny Hottie” and “Britney Fuck Vid” accounts that are hitting the network like a plague.

I’ve had several messages from people enquiring about these spam bots, asking how it is that they’re blocking them but then getting a new follow from what appears to be the exact same user a few minutes later. The reason why is that while these bots share the same name – that is, “Horny Hottie” or whatever – their usernames are all different. There are loads of Horny Hottie accounts chasing followers in Twitter.

Horny Hottie

The issue has risen to a point where I would estimate at any given time that 25-50 per cent of all of my last 10-20 followers are spam bots like this. Indeed, and perhaps appropriately, they often come in a threesome.

More Horny Hottie

Twitter, here’s a tip from me to you: automatically ban ALL accounts that enter “Horny Hottie”, “Britney Fuck Vid”, “Boob Doctor”, “Your Horny Kitty” or any other obviously malicious crap as their ‘real’ name. It’s that simple.

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How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft On Twitter (And Everywhere Else)

In case you hadn’t noticed, Twitter is in the middle of a boom. User accounts number some 20 million, all around the world, and you can hardly pick up a newspaper on magazine without somebody talking about the network.

I monitor my new followers fairly closely and it’s amused me of late how many folk are being reduced to fairly desperate usernames, simply because most of the good ones are already taken. This is especially true of spammers – I’ve seen about a hundred variations of the term ‘internetmarketer’, all complete with underscores, hyphens, unnecessary pluralisation and other foolish oddities. You ain’t foolin’ anybody, sweetheart.

While I pause for a second to double-check that pluralisation is actually a real word (it is), this situation with the ‘good names’ on Twitter rapidly running out is, of course, essentially an identical problem that we all face when trying to come up with great domain names.

I was incredibly lucky with – one, that it was available at all, but two, that it absolutely suited my purpose. It’s worked incredibly well. I was also fortunate that I got involved on Twitter early enough that my choice of username – Sheamus – was not taken.

The Sheamus account is where I do all of my tweets. If you want to keep up with Sheamus, that’s who you need to follow. I like it because it’s short (only seven letters) which is great for re-tweeting, but it’s also memorable. I’m known as Sheamus pretty much everywhere on the internet, and most of my friends think of me that way, too. It’s almost become my brand.

Indeed, according to Google, I’m the second most famous Sheamus in the world, behind the wrestler Sheamus O’Shaunessy (whose real name is Stephen Farrelly). It’s enough to make a guy’s head turn, but I don’t take it too seriously. Do note though that my Twitter account is the top link.

The Other Me On Twitter

I also have one other account on Twitter. It’s not a sock puppet, it’s not for spamming, and it’s not for testing purposes.

It’s the account that contains my real name. That is, the name I was born with, and also the one that cashes the cheques.

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Worried About Clicking On A Short URL? Try LinkNark

(This is a follow-up article to my post, “Your Office Doesn’t Like URL Shorteners. Now What?“)

Twitter is built around a 140-character messaging limit and URL shortening services such as TinyURL, and are an essential part of that system. However, with the recent worm exploits, many members of the network are understandably becoming increasingly concerned about clicking on a shortened URL for fear of where it might lead.


Enter LinkNark. LinkNark is a web-based service that lets you fully evaluate any URL before you click on it. Just visit the site, copy the URL into the text box, and hit the button. LinkNark breaks that shortened URL down and tells you exactly where it will lead.

Just think: no more RickRolls, no more spam, no more porn, and no more worms.

And quite possibly no more pleasant surprises, either, but that might be the price you need to pay for peace of mind and online security.