Twitter Plans Two-Step Authentication to Prevent Hacks

Following Tuesday's hacking of the Associated Press' Twitter account, the microblogging site is reportedly working on a two-step authentication security solution to help prevent future hijackings.

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Wed, April 24, 2013

CIO — The Associated Press' Twitter account was compromised yesterday due to what appears to be a successful phishing attack that allowed the hacker to use APs Twitter account to publish a tweet that read "Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured."

The tweet, which was sent out just after 1 p.m. EST caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop 143 points, from 14,697 to 14,554. It later recovered and corrected itself.

The Associated Press' Twitter account was hacked.

The AP reported yesterday that the Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the hack, though that could not be corroborated. The FBI has since opened an investigation into the incident.

Charles McColgan, CTO of security company TeleSign, says that the AP's exploit is a growing problem for Twitter.

"Twitter historically has not had the best reputation for security and, with the hack of the AP's Twitter account, it's arguable that this compromise had the largest financial impact of any Twitter hack to date," he says.

"Given what we know, there isnt one solution to the issue other than to emphasize to the Internet community that security and security awareness need to be a top priority for everyone," McColgan says.

According to reports, Twitter is working on a two-step authentication security solution, which is undergoing internal testing before being rolled out slowly to users.

Two-step authentication, also known as multifactor authentication or two-step verification, requires you to provide two pieces of information to verify your identity, according to J.D. Sherry, global director of technology at Internet security company Trend Micro. Usually this requires you to enter a password and a randomly generated code sent via text message or smartphone application, he says.

"It's a lot more secure than just a username and password and it's something that's been inherently embedded in enterprises to increase their security profile," Sherry says. "Now we're seeing this move out to social media websites and Web 3.0 platforms with mobility."

Two-step authentication is becoming a more widely used security measure. Both Google and Facebook have adopted the feature to help keep users' accounts safe.

Trend Micro's Sherry says Twitter's adoption of two-step authentication is a logical step, especially after its recent hackings.

"Twitter has probably been delaying the implementation of [two-step verification] because its approach with just a username and password is typical for sites trying to gain critical mass," he says. "Unfortunately, organizations are often driven by sentinel events that adversely affect their operation, and that's the driver that causes people to react and act."

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and social business for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

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