Tag Archives | Twitter

Sorry, Mr. President Elect: Twitter Gets Hacked

Twitter logoMalicious users gained access to Twitter’s account support tools by exploiting an undisclosed security vulnerability and hacked into 33 high profile accounts, including those belonging to Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly, U.S. President Elect Barack Obama, and CNN anchor Rick Sanchez. The intrusions caused no real harm, but Twitter’s status as a soapbox for public figures obligates it to be more responsible going forward.

Twitter acknowledged the exploits on its blog, which it considered to have been a “very serious breach of security.” It took the tools offline and froze the affect accounts when it was alerted to the problem. The Twitter team speculated that the breach may have been prevented had it been using the open authentication protocol (OAuth), a protocol to allow secure API authorization from Web applications.

The hacker (or hackers) used the President Elect’s account (which had been inactive since election day) to plug a gas card offer, made O’Reilly a more interesting individual, and changed Sanchez’s status to, “high on crack and might not be coming into work today.” Screen grabs of the exploits have been posted by TechCrunch.

No real harm was done, but the hackers’ puerile statements could have caused a real kerfuffle. Had Barack Obama already been swore in as President, an inappropriate statement could have inflamed political tinderboxes around the world. Indeed, Officials of other governments have been using Twitter for official statements.

The Israeli Consulate has been using Twitter to explain its justification for its recent military action; the wrong statement could have made an already acute political and humanitarian situation worse. It may be time for public officials and governments to reconsider their participation in social media unless there has been some form of a security audit. Twitter should take the responsibilities that come with being an impactful channel for disseminating information seriously.

The TV station across the street from me has a security guard and uses access cards at the door for a reason. The same standard should apply to new media.

In an indication that Twitter has become hackers’ target de jour, the intrusions come on the heels of a major phishing campaign that took place over the weekend. An untold number of Twitter users were lured into giving up their passwords for the promise of an iPhone.


Dear Twitter: Please Don’t Become Palm

palm-twitterDear Twitter,

Got a second?

Almost everybody who folllows my online adventures closely knows I’m a fan of yours. I Tweet up a storm at my own www.twitter.com/harrymccracken feed and there’s also a technologizer one that automatically Tweets every Technologizer story.  When friends tell me they don’t understand you, I evangelize on your behalf. I can’t think of a tech product or service I use every day that I take more pleasure in.

But I’m increasingly concerned about you. Simply put, you seem to be profoundly complacent on multiple fronts. A few examples (all of which plenty of people have pointed out before me)…

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The 12 Biggest Tech Stories of 2008

Technologizer's Top Stories of 2008

Techwise, I’m still not sure whether I’m grateful 2008 is almost over or sorry to see it shuffle off into the past. I do know that it was a strange, eventful year–and that much of the biggest news involved Apple, Google, Microsoft, and various combinations thereof. Here’s a recap of the year’s biggest stories, as judged by a blue-ribbon panel consisting of…well, me. Feel free to counter my choices in comments if you disagree with ’em–actually, I’d be grateful if you would.


Twitter Shuts Down SMS in Canada

Twitter logoThe micro-blogging service has now pulled the plug on outbound SMS alerts, citing escalating costs. This is the second market where usage of the SMS functionality has been restricted. The other country to lose SMS was the UK, where the plug was pulled in August.

Canadians will still be able to send Tweets to the Canadian shortcode (21212), but “unexpected changes in our billing” caused the company to stop outgoing texts. It claims costs have doubled over the past two months to continue providing the service.

“There is a realistic, scalable SMS solution for Canada (and the rest of the world.) We’re working on that and will post more details on the Twitter blog as we make progress,” the company said in a post it its status blog.

It is unclear what this means to the future of Twitter SMS here in the US, although the company has said earlier that deals with carriers are allowing the tweets to continue flowing.

However, with still no real revenue stream, and venture capital funding nearly the entire operation, its not hard to imagine that SMS may be considered non-essential when it comes time to make some cuts to save money.

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Twitter Sounds Like a Good Fit for Facebook

twitterNews has surfaced from Kara Swisher at AllThingsDigital about apparent talks that had been ongoing between Twitter and Facebook. Under the discussed terms, Facebook would have acquired the micro-blogging site for $500 million in Facebook stock. Facebook initiated the talks in mid-October, but they seemed to have broken off sometime around the beginning of this month.

The reasons for the breakdown in talks was the typical merger concerns over integration and whatnot. However, it also appears as if some within Twitter wanted to first try to build up the revenue side of their business on their own before looking outside of the company.

As it is well known. Twitter has no real revenue stream, and is being funded by venure capalists. With the economy going sound — and VC with it — now may be a good time to get that going.

In any case, it seems at least to me that Twitter would be a great fit for Facebook. The social networking site’s users are already familiar with twitter-like functionality through status updates, and Twitter users could stand to benefit from Facebook’s development team which likely could assist in making the service more stable.

$500 million is also more than a fair price to offer for Twitter. The latest round of funding put a value of the company at about $100 million, and as I’ve said previously, it has no real incoming revenue.

I’m not sure how Twitter thinks it is going to monetize the system, or why they should wait. With such uncertianty in the economy, just take the money and run.


A Twitter Account for Kevin Rose’s Cold? Are You Serious?

Okay, Web 2.0 has officially jumped the shark with this one. For reasons unknown, Digg founder Kevin Rose has decided to create a twitter account for the cold he has apparently caught. I’m not exactly sure why I’d care to know the latest goings-on about Mr. Rose’s mucus buildup or his aches and pains, but they’ll be listed for all the world to see.

I wouldn’t have covered this if it weren’t for the 771 users who have decided to follow this, which absolutely just blows my mind. Yes, I guess its funny for a moment — but should we really waste Twitter’s bandwidth for some mindless drivel?

kevinscoldGod knows Twitter can’t stay up, so why add more traffic that really is not going to better the lives of the web community at large. Oh wait, it may be good for the employees who work at Digg HQ, who now know not to come within 500 feet of their fearless leader for fear of catching whatever nasty bug Kevin has.

(I wonder, will their afflicitions create Twitter accounts too? Maybe this is a new strain of Web-aware viruses! Doctors would just need to @reply them to figure out how to best treat the afflicted. Talk about a superbug!)

Maybe I’m just failing to see the humor in it here, but come on now.

Here’s another one for somebody’s iPhone. This one is even more popular! 2,270 followers to learn where and what Justine’s iPhone is doing. Who the heck is Justine? And why do I care what her phone is doing? Good lord.

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Twitter, Terrorist Hot Spot?

Could the popular micro-blogging website be a potential starting point for coordinating attacks on US soil? The US Army certainly thinks so. In an intelligence report prepared by the military, the services is among several technologies that the Army believes terrorists may be using.

The report also names mobile GPS and the mobile phone as other possible methods for communication among members of these groups. It also fingers technologies such as Google Earth and mobile phone number spoofing applications as other possible methods, although it isn’t covered (see PDF).

We should point out, as the Army does too, that there is not necessarily any evidence just yet that these techniques are being used. This is merely speculation of possible methods. However, some of it just edges on the border of the slightly ridiculous.

Take this quip for example:

Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists, and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences.

That’s about the most skewed description of Twitter as I have ever heard. The folks who did this report seem to fail to mention that this description applies to an extremely small portion of the userbase. It makes Twitter sound like some kind of haven for wackos. That’s unfair to the rest of us who just use Twitter like everybody else.

I’m sorry… but people using the service for purposes that are not sanguine are not going to last very long. Twitterers are a self policing bunch.

Yes, I understand that there is some type of risk involved here. But at the same time, I think the military is going a little overboard with some of its assumptions. I just can’t see Twitter becoming very useful to the bad guys when all they have is 140 characters to do it.

What Twitter could do in the meantime (if it has not already) is set up flags in its code to alert of suspicious tweeting. Tweets of gibberish, certain key words, etc, or even groups of people that are all only connected to one another and nobody else. There’s ways to weed these folks out.

I’m in contact with Twitter, I’m sure they’ll want to say something about this. But until then, I’ll keep twittering for the 99.9 percent of users who are normal everyday people.


Twitter Chatter: What Are We Hoping Apple Announces on Tuesday?

[SHAMELESS PLUG: Technologizer will be liveblogging the Apple notebook event on 10/14/2008 @ 10am PT. Please join us.]

This we know for sure: Apple is having an event next Tuesday, and it will involve notebooks. Possibly sub-$800 notebooks and/or notebooks carved out of solid blocks of aluminum. But really, Apple being Apple, it could announce almost anything on Tuesday–multiple anythings, even.

So over on Twitter, I asked my pals to chime in with their what they were hoping for–and since it was Twitter, they had to do it in a maximum of forty characters.

Here’s what folks told me:

wardomatic: Affordable (yet fast) Macbooks, please.

amarvin: i hope apple announces a 13-inch aluminum macbook but keeps the current macbooks as entry-level (cheaper) models.

kellieparker: free laptops for everyone! But seriously, I think it’s a MacBook & MBP refresh

dtnick: A MacBook that doesn’t crack. Is that too much to ask from them?

randypeterman: I would like Apple to announce a Mac Basic [$799], a Mac Book+ [$1199] & a MBP Upgrade for $1799.

james_atomic: MacBook pro air?

strixus: not a laptop. New Mini.

ugadawg94: I want a 15 inch MacBook.

CallanH: I hope the $800 laptop rumors are true. I know many people who would be into that.

mikebarton: Re: Apple, I think it’s got to be sub-$800 or go home in this economy. Here come the netbooks…http://ping.fm/SUO0F

PatrickMoorhead: Would like to see APL announce laptops with integrated graphics that can actually do something more useful than web surfing. [NOTE: Patrick works at AMD.]

pcubed: really hope for a high-end netbook, like an Air for the rest of us. Somewhere in the $650 range would be optimal.

willswideweb: Nothing. I can’t afford another laptop at the moment…

Now that you’ve read this wish list for Tuesday, why not add to it with a comment? Feel free to use way more than 140 characters if you need ’em…

And hey, if you want to follow me on Twitter, please do! I go by the cryptic handle of harrymccracken there.


Five More Ways to Improve Twitter

Today’s top story in tech? Microblogging site Twitter has bought Summize, which was until today a separate company which offered something that shoulda been part of Twitter itself from the get-go: real-time search of the gazillions of brief messages from zillions of people that make up the surging sea of information that is Twitter. At the moment, Summize has morphed into search,twitter.com, which isn’t really integrated with the rest of the service. But it seems a safe bet that it won’t take long until a deeper melding happens, and that Twitter will be vastly better for it. (Here’s Twitter’s own blog post on the acquisition and the thinking behind it.)

Without Summize’s search, Twitter was sort of like a gargantuan party that was such a mob scene that you most likely ended up hanging out only with folks you already knew or who you encountered through pure serendipity. With Summize search, it’s going to be a cinch to find conversations you want to join and people who share your interests. Already, searches such as iPhone battery life and Iraq news make for good reading, and after I blogged about my new Humanscale Freedom chair, I idly searched for it–and was startled to discover that the chair has been the subject of lots of Tweets.

As a Twitter fan–I am, by the way, harrymccracken over there–I’m looking forward to seeing search become a big part of how I use Twitter. But I’m also thinking about other ways I’d improve the service–aside from the obvious hope that its days of frequent outages are behind it. So herewith, a short, highly personal wishlist.

I wish Twitter had…

1. Threaded conversations–real ones, I mean. The most interesting Tweets are part of discussions among two or more people, but the current form of threading on Twitter is a kludge that doesn’t work very well. It’s often hard to tell what a reply’s replying to, and impossible to read a conversation all on one page. A service called Quotably attempts to address these issues, but it only works some of the time…and who wants to go to a different site to experience what should be one of Twitter’s core features?

2. Threaded permalinks. Speaking of threading, I often want to point people to Twitter dialogs–sometimes ones from the distant past. I’d love a way to create a link to any snippet of conversation I chose.

3. Photos in Tweets. TwitPic lets you share photos via Twitter, and for what it does, it works quite nicely. But I wish that there was a way to make images show up in Tweets themselves. Maybe Twitter could even use MMS to push those photos out to folks who follow Twitter on their phones. (My take on Twitter is skewed by the fact that I mostly use it on the Web.)

4. More ways to find really worthwhile people and discussions. Right now, I discover new people on Twitter largely by accident or word of mouth, and I know that there are countless conversations going on that I might want to join…if only I knew they were happening. I’m sure Summize’s technology will help here. And maybe there should be a mechanism for rating Tweeters and/or the Tweets they produce.

5. Features that were just slightly more like e-mail. I say “just slightly” because it would be easy to ruin Twitter by complicating it. But I’d like to see something akin to an address book in Twitter; currently, your lists of people you’re following and those who are following you are separate and (I think) permanently arranged in the order they were added. And Twitter users have both user names and screen names, a distinction that’s fuzzy enough that I keep forgetting what’s what and when to use which one.

One thing I hope Twitter never does is allow you to create Tweets that are longer than 140 characters long. The fact that you’re forced into haiku mode when Tweeting is a huge part of the joy of Twitter…

So how would you change Twitter if you could?