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Oops! Twitter hack snares CNN anchor

Rick Sanchez is one of the microblogging service's most popular users, so a whole lot of people saw when his account displayed a message about being high on illicit substances.

Twitter, screengrab by Ian Schafer (ianschafer.com)

Clarification: Twitter has clarified that this incident was the work of a hacker and separate from the phishing scheme.

CNN anchor Rick Sanchez is one of the most popular users on microblogging service Twitter, with nearly 40,000 followers and a Twitterholic rank in the top 20. Unfortunately for Sanchez, it looks like he fell victim to the phishing scam that has been plaguing the popular service for several days now.

In a "tweet" that has since been deleted, Sanchez's account displayed the message "i am high on crack right now might not be coming into work today"--and we're pretty sure that did not come from Sanchez himself. He has now posted a response tweet explaining that his account was hacked.

Over the weekend, reports began to surface that there was a password-stealing phishing scam making the rounds on Twitter. Disguising itself as a private message that led to a fake Twitter log-in screen, the scam was widespread enough for Twitter to put a warning message on all members' home pages alerting them of the issue.

Why did so many people fall for it? Well, the fake Twitter log-in screen looked pretty darn authentic. And because there are so many third-party applications based on Twitter's application program interface (API), tons of avid users are used to throwing their Twitter passwords around left and right. That is, it goes without saying, probably not the safest habit to get into.

It looks as if the aim of the phishing scam may have been to take over the accounts of some of the service's most popular users: the account for Fox News, as well as pop singer Britney Spears, also had their passwords stolen and offensive tweets sent out. The Fox News tweet, for the record, concerned the sexual orientation of pundit Bill O'Reilly; the Spears tweet made some tawdry allegations about her naughty bits.

UPDATE: Twitter has posted an official blog entry explaining that this is different from the phishing issue. Rather, it was a hacker's doing:

The issue with these 33 accounts is different from the Phishing scam aimed at Twitter users this weekend. These accounts were compromised by an individual who hacked into some of the tools our support team uses to help people do things like edit the email address associated with their Twitter account when they can't remember or get stuck. We considered this a very serious breach of security and immediately took the support tools offline. We'll put them back only when they're safe and secure.

Props to marketing blogger Ian Schafer for grabbing this screenshot.