Twitter informed thousands of its users on Monday that it accidentally reset users' passwords, following an apparent hacking attempt. But then it turned out the hack attack had not happened and that few if any passwords were reset, so the giant social network has issued an apology.
In an e-mail to its users from firstname.lastname@example.org, the company said that it believed "your account may have been compromised by a Web site or service not associated with Twitter." As a result, Twitter said, it "reset your password to prevent accessing your account," and the user was asked to establish a new password.
But, it turned out, there was no breach. Reportedly, some kind of issue with another site triggered the security alert. Some reports have said that no passwords were reset, although a few users have reported that theirs have been.
One user, @MichelleRafter, tweeted: "So yesterday my account didn't get hacked. I was in 1 percent of account @Twitter accidentally reset."
In a subsequent statement, the company said that it "unintentionally sent some password reset notices tonight due to a system error," and it apologized "to the affected users for the inconvenience." Twitter has not said how many users were affected, or why the company thought a hacking attack had taken place but then changed its mind.
The first instinct of a savvy user would be that the e-mail itself was part of a phishing attempt to trick a user into thinking that new login credentials were needed.
One user, @V3CEO, tweeted: "Beware of phishing emails just got one from email@example.com asking me to reset password looked realistic"
Another use, @rubinafillion, tweeted: "Did you get a scary e-mail from Twitter about your account being hacked? You can probably ignore it." This tweet contained a link to a story about the false alarm.
'Competing Log Cabins'
Another user, @gaberivera, referenced Twitter's recent installation of two vintage log cabins inside its San Francisco headquarters: "Twitter password reset snafu actually collateral damage from an internal battle between competing log cabins."
This is not the first time that Twitter has reset passwords because of a security-related issue. In November 2012, a similar incident occurred, when the company asked users to reset their logins when they attempted to sign in, because of a hack.
But on that occasion, there actually was a security breach as Twitter's own account spammed ads to users. Until it fixed the problem, the company requested that users not click on those links.
E-mails containing links to reset passwords were sent to user accounts that had been compromised, and those users were required to submit their phone number, e-mail address or Twitter handle before receiving the reset e-mail. The reset e-mail did not request the old password.
In a blog post following that incident, Twitter noted that it had erred on the side of caution. "We unintentionally reset passwords of a larger number of accounts," the post said, "beyond those that we believe to have been compromised."