Micro-blogging site Twitter had to temporarily suspend accounts belonging to Barack Obama, Britney Spears and other celebrities after they were hijacked by miscreants and used to spread scandalous and false information that appeared to come from their owners.
The attack on 33 celebrity accounts caused Fox News to apparently admit that news commentator Bill O'Reilly was gay and prompted a confession from pop celeb Spears that her vagina was four feet wide "with razor sharp teeth." Twitter said in a blog post that the compromises were the result of an individual who "hacked into some of the tools our support team uses to help people do things like edit the email address associated with their Twitter account when they can't remember or get stuck."
The accounts were temporarily suspended until their rightful owners could regain control of them.
A separate high-profile phishing campaign caused thousands of the site's users to receive phony messages designed to trick them into visiting sites that steal their login credentials. Miscreants used the compromised identities to spam additional Twitter users who followed the account holder.
It's the latest example of a social networking site being besieged by scammers. Over the past year, Facebook and MySpace have become havens for phishers and other scammers out to exploit the near-blind trust users place in these online hangouts.
To its credit, and unlike many of its peers, Twitter gives users the option of surfing the vast majority of the site with the use of the secure sockets layer protocol, a measure that makes it harder for scammers to trick their prey. So if you must peruse the site, be sure there's an https in front of the address, especially when logging in.
According to Twitter, the phishing scampaigns were unconnected to the impersonation of celebrities. While the goal of the former is to purloin login credentials, the aim of the latter appeared to be the embarrassment of the rich and famous. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, for instance, was caught staying home from work because he was too high on crack.
The exception was the hijacked account of President-elect Barack Obama, which directed followers to visit a website that attempted to steal personal information. ®