03:53 GMT +309 December 2019
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    Twitter Starts Sending Users Warnings of 'State-Sponsored' Hacks

    © AFP 2019 / Leon Neal
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    In an event believed to be a first for social media websites, Twitter has sent notifications to a number of its users whose accounts, in the company’s opinion, may have been compromised by "state-sponsored actors."

    The first company to report of such a “precaution” was Coldhak, a Canadian-based pro-privacy NGO. The organization tweeted on Friday that it received a notification from Twitter, saying that the NGO’s account may have been “targeted” by government-sponsored hackers.

    ​“We believed that these actors (possibly associated with a government) may have been trying to obtain information such as email addresses, IP addresses, and/or phone numbers,” the message received by Coldhak is reported to have said, adding that an internal investigation by Twitter is underway.

    In the email Twitter called on account holders to take extra security measures for preventing the theft of their private information, such as using Tor software allowing for anonymous Internet communication.

    While talking to tech news site CNET, a spokesman for the Twitter office in San Francisco confirmed the authenticity of the notifications, but declined to comment further.

    Twitter claimed it couldn’t confirm that private user account information, including that of Coldhak, had been stolen.

    The exact number of accounts affected in the possible attacks remains undisclosed, according to BBC.

    Online magazine Motherboard reported a dozen Twitter users who are said to have received warning emails from Twitter, noting that many of those potentially affected are linked to development of software for the Tor Project.

    Twitter started collecting account holder data, including phone numbers, earlier this year. As Raw Story noted, it is highly probable that hackers are seeking users’ private information such as passwords or phone numbers.

    According to media reports, the US and China have, since the early days of the Internet, consistently accused one another of state-sponsored hacks.

    James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, told BBC that state-sponsored hackers have at their disposal much greater resources than individual hackers and can easily bypass most security measures.

    Other companies have earlier issued warnings of suspicious account activity. Google, the search-engine giant, began the practice in 2012.

    In 2013, Twitter warned over 200,000 users of a possible security breach that targeted passwords and email addresses.

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    Tags:
    Tor, hacker attack, Google, Twitter, China, Canada, United States
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