By now, it’s no longer surprising to hear that there might be some state-initiated, even sponsored, cyber activity being undertaken in the interests of national security. Most of the time, these happen in secrecy. Rare and unusual are the times, however, when targets are informed of such activities by companies used as middle men in such incidents. That is precisely what Twitter is apparently doing by supposedly emailing an unknown number of users that they might be the target of some state-sponsored hacking attempts.
Twitter, unsurprisingly, Isn’t making an official comment confirming or denying this. Not going public is, after all, the point of privately emailing those affected users. According to some recipients of the emails who did decide to go public, Twitter’s email are warning them that some “state-sponsored actors” are trying to hack into their Twitter accounts in order to pilfer phone numbers, email and IP addresses, and the like.
Twitter also says that no personal information has actually been hacked, or at least it doesn’t know if any have been, as it continues to undergo its own internal audit on the matter. The email says that it has no further information available at the moment except that the person’s or group’s account appeared to be the intended target. Those targets apparently included journalists and security researchers.
Again, it isn’t surprising to hear of these things by now, but that doesn’t make such incidents less worrying. The rate of hacking incidents in the past 12 months should be cause for concern. And if Twitter’s unofficial claim of government involvement has any ring of truth, it might again raise voices against the government’s ongoing attempts to spy even on its own citizens.
Twitter is hardly the only company to reach out to potential hacking targets among their users. Facebook and Google too have been reported to have sent out similar warnings. Twitter’s email also includes some admonition to safeguard their personal information, including the use of software like Tor to anonymize their Internet activities.