- 15 Jul 09, 12:57 GMT
A leading technology blog Techcrunch said last night that it had been forwarded hundreds of confidential corporate and personal documents belonging to Twitter and its employees.
The information, obtained by a hacker calling himself Hacker Croll, was first mentioned on this French blog.
It apparently includes the names and food preferences of all employees, records of internal meetings, names of job applicants, confidential contracts with companies like Nokia and Microsoft, and details of staff salaries.
In other words, just about everything that Twitter would like to keep secret - and that rivals, and journalists, would love to get their hands on. The post on Techcrunch immediately provoked a firestorm, with many expressing outrage that the blog should even consider publishing this material, which appears to have been obtained by illicit means.
I spoke to the French blogger Manuel Dorne, who was the first to receive the file from "Hacker Croll" - who's apparently based in France. He told me the documents included credit card numbers and personal account details from Apple's Mobile Me service.
There were also details of plans for the French president to acquire a Twitter account - under the name @NicolasSarkozy. But Manuel Dorne said he'd made a different decision from Techcrunch, opting just to show a few screenshots of the material rather than publish more. "I don't want to cause damage to Twitter or to help their rivals," he told me.
Beyond the issue of journalistic ethics, the whole incident also raises interesting questions about the security of cloud computing. Much of the information appears to have been obtained by the hacker gaining access to Gmail accounts. So it appears that Twitter, like an increasing number of young businesses, was storing lots of corporate information on the servers in Google's vast data centres.
Now Google is stressing that there's no suggestion that its systems have been hacked - merely that someone has somehow guessed the Gmail passwords of various Twitter employees.
As a spokesman explained it to me, you'd feel furious at your bank if their servers had been hacked allowing someone to get access to your account, but furious with yourself if you'd given away your online banking details - or chosen a very weak password.
That's obviously true. But companies thinking of migrating all of their e-mail into the cloud might consider what Hacker Croll told Manuel Dorne about the motivation behind his Twitter hack:
"J'espere que mon intervention leur fera prendre conscience que nul n'est a l'abri sur le net."
In other words, he hopes his "intervention" will make Twitter wake up to the fact that nothing is secure on the net. Companies promoting cloud computing - from Google to Amazon to Microsoft - are all confident that their systems just cannot be hacked.
But if you allow your employees - including very senior members of staff - to send confidential information on cloud-based e-mail then you'd better make sure their passwords are super secure.
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