How to recover a stolen Twitter ID from Russian-speaking Bruce Willis impostor
After her account was hijacked, a reporter found out what it took to keep a Twitterbot from assuming her professional identity.
This is an excerpt of a story from Passcode, the Monitor's forthcoming section on security and privacy. Read the full article here.
It was one of my first few days on the cybersecurity beat, and I was on the phone with a potential source in one of the military’s online warfare units. He asked me to tell him about my background because he didn’t Google me before our conversation. I laughed, absentmindedly typing my own name into the search engine.
In that moment, I was glad he hadn't tried to find me online.
The second search result was my Twitter account — except it wasn’t mine. At least, not anymore. Bruce Willis was my avatar and I had, apparently, been tweeting exclusively in Russian.
I did a double-take, and realized what happened. Weeks prior, I changed my handle from @SaraSorcherNJ to the simpler @SaraSorcher when I left my job at National Journal covering national security to join The Christian Science Monitor to help lead a new section on, somewhat ironically considering the situation, security and privacy. Apparently within days of that change, someone — or a bot — had taken over my former work identity.
My real account, @SaraSorcher, still existed. In my picture, I was still smiling and wearing a gray suit. The @SaraSorcherNJ account — Fake Me — sported a smirking, balding Willis in a track suit and v-neck white tee. I tweet about news and wonky security policy issues. Fake Russian-speaking Me enjoys “watching Hannibal, eating apples and pondering the nature of existence." (Thanks, Google Translate.)
As a human fighting online with what was probably a robot, I wanted to know: Can a user prevent their old handle from being seized?
READ THE FULL STORY: Find out what happened by reading the full article on Passcode, the Monitor’s forthcoming section on cybersecurity.
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