Hackers blamed for wave of fake death tweets

Hackers are suspected to have broken into Twitpic accounts belonging to Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, and P. Diddy to post false death announcements.

Twitpic is a program that lets Twitter users share photos but, it is not owned by Twitter.
Twitpic is a program that lets Twitter users share photos, but it is not owned by Twitter. Twitpic

It seemed like celebrity deaths were contagious last week. After the sad news about Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon dying, a wave of viral death notices went out on Twitter for Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Goldblum, and P. Diddy. But all are safe and sound.

"Britney has passed today," the bogus tweet announced on Sunday. "It is a sad day for everyone. More news to come."

The message was immediately taken down and Spears' staff tweeted that her account was hacked into and that, "She is fine and dandy spending a quiet day at home relaxing."

Similar messages were put up on the other celebrities' accounts, says Mashable, a social-media news site. They believe hackers got access to these celebrities' Twitter accounts through Twitpic, a program that lets Twitter users share photos but is not owned by Twitter. To post to Twitpic, users can e-mail a photo with a subject line, put in their PIN, and the post will be immediately tweeted.

According to The Associated Press, once discovered, the morbid tweets were taken down and Twitpic temporarily shutoff part of its service, announcing they were "implementing a fix immediately."

Twitpic fixed this vulnerability by Monday and in an apology letter explained that the hackers tried every PIN combination possible until one worked. Now, Twitpic says a "fix has been put in place to prevent this from happening," and that less than 10 users were affected by the hack and "no account information was compromised."

This isn't the first time Spears' Twitter account has been toyed with . At the end of April, a hacker got access to a Twitter administrator password by guessing the secret question to reset the password and broke into Spears' and other celebrities' accounts.

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About the author

Dara Kerr is a staff writer for CNET focused on the sharing economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado where she developed an affinity for collecting fool's gold and spirit animals.

 

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