The first: brute-force
The first take-over was most likely a case of brute-forcing my weak password while not having 2FA enabled. I have no excuse for either of those lapses. I had convinced myself I had 2fa enabled which made me take a (too) lax attitude to my short 8-character password that was possible to remember. Clearly, 2fa was not enabled and then the only remaining wall against the evil world was that weak password.
The second time
After that first hijack, I immediately changed password to a strong many-character one and I made really sure I enabled 2fa with an authenticator app and I felt safe again. Yet it would only take seventeen days until I again was locked out from my account. This second time, I could see how someone had managed to change the email address associated with my account (displayed when I wanted to reset my password). With the password not working and the account not having the correct email address anymore, I could not reset the password, and my 2fa status had no effect. I was locked out. Again.
It felt related to the first case because I’ve had my Twitter account since May 2008. I had never lost it before and then suddenly after 12+ years, within a period of three weeks, it happens twice?
Why and how
How this happened was a complete mystery to me. The account was restored fairly swiftly but I learned nothing from that.
Then someone at Twitter contacted me. After they investigated what had happened and how, I had a chat with a responsible person there and he explained for me exactly how this went down.
Had Twitter been hacked? Is there a way to circumvent 2FA? Were my local computer or phone compromised? No, no and no.
Apparently, an agent at Twitter who were going through the backlog of issues, where my previous hijack issue was still present, accidentally changed the email on my account by mistake, probably confusing it with another account in another browser tab.
There was no outside intruder, it was just a user error.
Okay, the cynics will say, this is what he told me and there is no evidence to back it up. That’s right, I’m taking his words as truth here but I also think the description matches my observations. There’s just no way for me or any outsider to verify or fact-check this.
A brighter future
They seem to already have identified things to improve to reduce the risk of this happening again and Michael also mentioned a few other items on their agenda that should make hijacks harder to do and help them detect suspicious behavior earlier and faster going forward. I was also happy to provide my feedback on how I think they could’ve made my lost-account experience a little better.
I’m relieved that the second time at least wasn’t my fault and neither of my systems are breached or hacked (as far as I know).
I’ve also now properly and thoroughly gone over all my accounts on practically all online services I use and made really sure that I have 2fa enabled on them. On some of them I’ve also changed my registered email address to one with 30 random letters to make it truly impossible for any outsider to guess what I use.
(I’m also positively surprised by this extra level of customer care Twitter showed for me and my case.)
Am I a target?
I don’t think I am. I think maybe my Twitter account could be interesting to scammers since I have almost 25K followers and I have a verified account. Me personally, I work primarily with open source and most of my works is already made public. I don’t deal in business secrets. I don’t think my personal stuff attracts attackers more than anyone else does.
What about the risk or the temptation for bad guys in trying to backdoor curl? It is after all installed in some 10 billion systems world-wide. I’ve elaborated on that before. Summary: I think it is terribly hard for someone to actually manage to do it. Not because of the security of my personal systems perhaps, but because of the entire setup and all processes, signings, reviews, testing and scanning that are involved.
So no. I don’t think my personal systems are a valued singled out target to attackers.
Now, back to work!