Twitter Accidentally Reset Large Number of Passwords Today. Maybe It Should Do That More Often.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 8 2012 5:07 PM

Twitter Accidentally Reset Large Number of Passwords Today. Maybe It Should Do That More Often.

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Twitter accidentally reset many users' passwords

Photo by FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

If you unexpectedly received an alert this morning telling you that your Twitter account password had been reset, don’t panic. In response to some sort of hacking event—which some think may be related to political events in China—Twitter accidentally went overboard with the reset button.

Journalists, analysts, and random media types the globe over received an email alert this morning telling them their passwords had been reset, something the micro-blogging site does automatically when it thinks an account has been compromised. Soon afterward, Twitter admitted in an official statement that it had made a mistake and reset login info for accounts that were not vulnerable. (It’s not clear yet how many accounts were involved with this incident—whether because of the original breach or Twitter’s accidental overreach.)

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The first journalists to receive these reset notifications were based in China, according to TweetSmarter, which appears to have been the first tech blog to report on the Twitter password compromise. Many of them instantly suspected that the Chinese government or its sympathizers were behind whatever incident prompted Twitter to reset so many paswords. As Voice of America noted, the incident coincided with the Chinese Communist Party’s first steps toward its leadership transition. Twitter has not revealed any details about the apparent hack and probably never will, but the incident still sent China watchers into a paranoid tweet-off. Like the analysts that spoke with VOA, the China watchers who spoke with the Wall Street Journal also found the timing of the password resets suspicious.

Regardless, many people were upset that their passwords were reset without any good reason. “twitter just made me reset my password in order to log in i'm scared did someone try to hack me if someone is trying to hack me I SEE U” tweeted @carolynlindseyx.

Even if you don’t swap direct messages with Chinese activists, however, resetting your password today is a great idea. (Thousands of panicked users will be right there with you.) In fact, if Twitter and other Web-based services automatically did this for their user base every couple of months, as many companies do with their employees’ accounts, it might beef up our personal cybersecurity by forcing us out of our password complacency. Remember the hack that erased years of data and family photos belonging to Wired’s Mat Honan? No one wants that.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Fruzsina Eördögh is a freelance writer covering digital culture and technology. Follow her on Twitter.

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