Most Twitter SMS users are protected from spoofing attacks by default, but others need to set PIN
Twitter has restricted the ability of attackers to post tweets and perform other actions on behalf of many users who have phone numbers associated with their accounts, but some users need to enable a PIN option in order to be protected.
On Monday, a developer and security researcher named Jonathan Rudenberg reported that attackers can abuse the Twitter accounts of users who added their phone numbers to their profiles in order to use the service via SMS (Short Message Service).
Twitter allows users to control their accounts by sending commands via text messages to phone numbers set up by the company. The supported commands include following and unfollowing users, tweeting, retweeting, sending direct messages, modifying profile information such as name, bio or URL, and more.
The problem is that the origin of text messages can be spoofed and there are services that allow users to do this easily.
“Like email, the originating address of a SMS cannot be trusted. Many SMS gateways allow the originating address of a message to be set to an arbitrary identifier, including someone else’s number,” Rudenberg said.
This means that if an attacker knows the phone number of a Twitter user and that user associated his phone number with his account, the attacker can issue SMS commands on behalf of the user without actually having access to his phone.
“Users that use the long codes are vulnerable to spoofing, but can enable the PIN code feature,” Rudenberg said Tuesday via email.
Twitter offers an option for every SMS command to be authenticated with a PIN. The option can be turned on and the PIN can be configured in the mobile section of the account settings on the Twitter website.
Rudenberg believes that hundreds of thousands of early Twitter users might have used the SMS feature, but never removed their phone numbers from their accounts when they later bought smartphones and started using Twitter’s mobile apps.
“I also know a few people who use this feature for various reasons,” he said. “I think that there are countries where smartphones don’t have very high penetration that have users of this feature.”
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