Twitter Apologizes for Unencrypted Passwords

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    Time to change your Twitter passwords! A warning that all users should change their passwords came from Twitter itself after it was revealed that user passwords were stored unencrypted on company servers. Though at this time there’s no indication your passwords were shared with anyone outside of Twitter, employees did have access to these unencrypted keys.

    Twitter did apologize, and though we would’ve liked to see compassion included a bit earlier in the message it’s not a bad piece of crisis communications:

    When you set a password for your Twitter account, we use technology that masks it so no one at the company can see it. We recently identified a bug that stored passwords unmasked in an internal log. We have fixed the bug, and our investigation shows no indication of breach or misuse by anyone.

    Out of an abundance of caution, we ask that you consider changing your password on all services where you’ve used this password. You can change your Twitter password anytime by going to the password settings page.

    About The Bug

    We mask passwords through a process called hashing using a function known as bcrypt, which replaces the actual password with a random set of numbers and letters that are stored in Twitter’s system. This allows our systems to validate your account credentials without revealing your password. This is an industry standard.

    Due to a bug, passwords were written to an internal log before completing the hashing process. We found this error ourselves, removed the passwords, and are implementing plans to prevent this bug from happening again.

    Tips on Account Security

    Again, although we have no reason to believe password information ever left Twitter’s systems or was misused by anyone, there are a few steps you can take to help us keep your account safe:

    1. Change your password on Twitter and on any other service where you may have used the same password.
    2. Use a strong password that you don’t reuse on other websites.
    3. Enable login verification, also known as two factor authentication. This is the single best action you can take to increase your account security.
    4. Use a password manager to make sure you’re using strong, unique passwords everywhere.

    We are very sorry this happened. We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us, and are committed to earning that trust every day.

    Having a data breach falls firmly into the “predictable crisis” category for any business today, which brings me to a question – when’s the last time you went through a tested your own ability to respond to the predictable crises that threaten your operations? In a world where responding quickly is critical, you lose valuable time scrambling to create a response after the fact. Know your risk factors, be prepared, and deploy as needed.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is vice president for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]

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