Twitter users being directly warned of state snooping

14 Dec 2015

Twitter has begun directly reaching out to its users to reveal to them that at some point the security forces working on behalf of states have demanded access to their information.

The news might not be terribly surprising given that Twitter, along with many of the major internet hubs like Facebook and Google, is regularly sent requests asking for people’s account information, identity, IP addresses and telephone numbers.

However, until now, Google and Facebook have been the most transparent in revealing these attempts at accessing accounts, with both revealing the statistics on their websites.

According to Motherboard, the Twitter account of the Canadian gaming website Coldhak – which caters to people looking to hack games to cheat – was one of the targets and has published on its Twitter page a sample of the email it received from Twitter.

The email from Twitter states: “We believe that these actors (possibly associated with a government) may have been trying to obtain information such as email addresses, IP addresses, and/or phone numbers.

At this time, we have no evidence they obtained your account information, but we’re actively investigating this matter. We wish we had more we could share, but we don’t have any additional information we can provide at this time.

Twitter has made no official statement on the matter, however, it appears that many of the accounts being targeted relate to activist websites, with some having connections to Tor project, but there doesn’t appear to be any unified reason as to why they were targeted.

This is at least apparent with Coldhak, which said in response to Motherboard about the email: “Colin Childs, one of the founding directors of Coldhak, is a contractor for Tor Project and, as such, is a likely target for this type of attention. It could also be because of the Tor relays Coldhak operates, or the Coldkernel project that Coldhak is currently developing.”

Twitter on mobile image via Nirut Rupkham/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic