Twitter has warned some of its users that they may be targets of state-sponsored attacks and that hackers were trying to obtain sensitive data from their accounts, reports Motherboard.
— coldhak (@coldhakca) December 11, 2015
Twitter added that these attacks could have possibly originated from actors acting on behalf of governments, but declined to name which ones. In their notice to users, Twitter said that the attack only impacted usernames, IP address, email addresses, and phone numbers if a phone number was associated with the account. The company added that it found no evidence that accounts were compromised during its investigation.
Motherboard also points out that the accounts which were targeted were those who were activists or associated with the Tor Project in some capacity. A few of the users were also part of the cyber security community.
Twitter on its part directed these users to the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to better protect their online identity.
Tor is a free software that enables anonymous communication. It directs internet traffic through a free volunteer network concealing the user’s location. The routing is implemented by encrypting the data multiple times, including the destination IP address and sending it through randomly selected nodes of its network.
Similar warnings from Google and Facebook
Interestingly, Google had given a similar warning to users that there might be state-sponsored hackers compromising accounts way back in 2012. Google said that the warning didn’t necessarily mean that users’ accounts were hijacked. “It just means that we believe you may be a target, of phishing or malware for example, and that you should take immediate steps to secure your account, ” Google had added.
Facebook, on the other hand, warned users of state-sponsored attacks in October this year. Facebook said that it would notify users if it believed accounts were targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state. “We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts,” Facebook added.
France looking to block Tor
In the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks last month, the French government said it was considering a proposal to ban free and shared WiFi connections during a state of emergency, and block Tor permanently.
Earlier this month, firms including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple and Google met with government and law-enforcement officials from the EU to discuss whether tech firms should build backdoors into encryption tools that could be used by terrorists to plan future attacks, a rhetoric, which has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks.