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What Bitly Breach Means for You
What Bitly Breach Means for You

By Jennifer LeClaire
May 8, 2014 1:19PM

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Access to Bitly accounts might be attractive to criminals, because many are connected to users’ Facebook and Twitter profiles, potentially opening the door to sending spam links and scam campaigns via the service. But Bitly hasn’t confirmed this and it normally does a good job of blocking access to malicious links once they are reported.
 



If you use Twitter, you may also use Bitly. And if you use Bitly, you need to be aware of a breach that may disable both your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

In a blog post, the link-shortening service warned users that Bitly account credentials have been compromised. Specifically, user e-mail addresses, passwords, API keys and OAuth tokens have been breached. That amounts to a pain in the neck for social media managers, and for hard core tweeters.

“We have no indication at this time that any accounts have been accessed without permission,” Bitly CEO Mark Josephson said in the post. “We have taken steps to ensure the security of all accounts, including disconnecting all users’ Facebook and Twitter accounts. All users can safely reconnect these accounts at their next login.”

What’s Really Happening?

Josephson is recommending all Bitly users change their API keys and OAuth tokens, reset passwords, and reconnect Facebook and Twitter accounts. Bitly offered step-by-step instructions on how to make those changes.

“We invalidated all credentials within Facebook and Twitter,” he continued. “Although users may see their Facebook and Twitter accounts connected to their Bitly account, it is not possible to publish to these accounts until users reconnect their Facebook and Twitter profiles.”

According to independent security researcher Graham Cluley, what happened remains something of a mystery. He notes that no details are shared about precisely what information the hackers may have snatched.

“For instance, if passwords were compromised, were they in plaintext or hashed?” he asked in a blog post. “If they were hashed, was it done securely with salting and other techniques to make it trickier for hackers to crack them?”

As Cluley sees it, access to Bitly accounts might be attractive to criminals, because many are connected to users’ Facebook and Twitter profiles, potentially opening the door to sending spam links and scam campaigns via the service.

“However,” he noted, “Bitly hasn’t confirmed if this has occurred and -- in fairness to the service -- it normally does a good job of blocking access to malicious links once they are reported to them.”

Social Media Hacking

Bitly isn’t the only social media service to get hacked in recent months. In January, hackers accessed the account information of 4.6 million users of the photo sharing service Snapchat. Although the motive of the Bitly hack is yet unknown, the Snapchat hackers explained their reasoning.

"Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed," according to the hackers. "It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does.”

Last year, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumbler and Pinterest were all breached. LinkedIn's hack seemed to make the most headlines as it targeted business users. At least 6.5 million user passwords were exposed.
 

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