Security Experts:

Hackers Abuse Twitter App to Hijack High-Profile Accounts

Many high-profile Twitter accounts have been hijacked in an attack apparently motivated by the recent diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the Netherlands.

Hacktivists posted messages in Turkish containing the hashtags #Nazialmanya (Nazi Germany) and #Nazihollanda (Nazi Netherlands) on many Twitter accounts, including ones belonging to high profile organizations such as Amnesty International, the European Parliament, Duke University, UNICEF USA, Forbes, Reuters Japan, and BBC North America.

The message was also posted from the Twitter accounts of hundreds of apparently random individuals.

A majority of the affected organizations have already restored their accounts, and some of them have notified their followers about the hack.

The tweets included a link to a YouTube video showing Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The compromised Twitter accounts also had their profile pictures replaced with an image of the Ottoman Empire’s coat of arms.

Twitter accounts hacked

The attack was launched just as Turkey is preparing for a referendum, scheduled for April 16, on boosting the president’s powers. The Netherlands’ recent decision to prevent Turkish ministries from addressing expatriate Turks on the matter has caused tensions between the two countries.

It appears that hackers managed to hijack a large number of Twitter accounts through Twitter Counter, a stats and marketing analytics app that reportedly has more than 2 million users and tracks over 350 million Twitter accounts. The Netherlands-based service has pointed out that it does not store any Twitter credentials or payment card information.

The application requests both read and write access to Twitter accounts, which allowed the hackers to send out their tweets via the service. Some of the victims said they decided to block the app following the incident.

This is not the first time Twitter Counter has been abused by hackers. In November, the company suffered a security breach that led to spam tweets being posted from high-profile Twitter accounts, including ones belonging to Playstation, Xbox, The New Yorker, Charlie Sheen, Lionel Messi, and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.

Related: 'Star Wars' Botnet Has 350,000 Twitter Bots

Related: Botnet of 3 Million Twitter Accounts Remains Undetected for Years

view counter
Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.