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Twitter makes everyone change their password

After spending the past two months in the angry-media spotlight, Facebook finally caught a breather o
May 3 · Issue #129 · View online
The Interface
After spending the past two months in the angry-media spotlight, Facebook finally caught a breather on Thursday, as another social media elbowed its way to the front of the news cycle with a gobsmacking mistake of its own. It was Twitter, of course. Here’s my colleague Chaim Gartenberg:
Twitter is urging all of its more than 330 million users to immediately change their passwords after a bug exposed them in plain text. While Twitter’s investigation showed that there was no evidence that any breach or misuse of the unmasked passwords occurred, the company is recommending that users change their Twitter passwords out of an “abundance of caution,” both on the site itself and anywhere else they may have used that password, which includes third-party apps like Twitterrific and TweetDeck.
According to Twitter, the bug occurred due to an issue in the hashing process that masks passwords by replacing them with a random string of characters that get stored on Twitter’s system. But due to an error with the system, apparently passwords were being saved in plain text to an internal log, instead of masking them with the hashing process. Twitter claims to have found the bug on its own and removed the passwords. It’s working to make sure that similar issues don’t come up again.
Now, just because the passwords were available to read in plain text doesn’t mean anyone saw them. The internal log was apparently viewable only to some unknown subset of Twitter employees, and so far there’s no evidence anyone misused it. 
But the company turned what should have been a trust-building disclosure into a public-relations problem. Twitter’s chief technical officer, Parag Agrawal, tweeted: “We are sharing this information to help people make an informed decision about their account security. We didn’t have to, but believe it’s the right thing to do.” 
As I said at the time, “We didn’t have to tell you” that 330 million passwords were available to read in plain text is a hell of a take from the CTO. Especially when the company is also telling 330 million people to change their passwords in response. It’s somewhat akin to a firefighter telling you that, while he didn’t have to remove the smoldering pile of oily rags from your basement, it was the right thing to do. Not wrong, exactly, but not confidence-building either.
Agrawal soon reversed course. ”I should not have said we didn’t have to share,“ he tweeted. ”I have felt strongly that we should. My mistake.“
It was another Twitter user felled by the deeply relatable urge to say something in response to current events, even if they were better off letting someone else do the talking. I believe Agrawal meant well, but today he learned Twitter’s most fundamental lesson — never tweet — the hard way. 

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