January 6, 2009 By Hilton Collins
Hackers compromised 33 Twitter accounts on Monday, including those of Barack Obama, Britney Spears and Bill O'Reilly, and posted embarrassing and, in some cases, obscene news items, according to multiple news sources and Twitter.
The Washington Times reported that at about 12:30 p.m. EST a message was sent to the president-elect's followers asking them to participate in a survey. The message read, "What is your opinion on Barack Obama? Take the survey and possibly win $500 in free gas." The message contained a link to a two-question survey on another Web site.
Other famous Twitter accounts were also victimized. CNN.com reported that Fox News Twitter followers were greeted with a faux news items declaring that popular news personality Bill O'Reilly was gay. It has since been removed.
Hackers also spread salacious rumors through Britney Spears' and CNN newsman Rick Sanchez's Twitter accounts.
A Jan. 5 post on Twitter's blog titled Monday Morning Madness said, "These accounts were compromised by an individual who hacked into some of the tools our support team uses to help people do things like edit the e-mail address associated with their Twitter account when they can't remember or get stuck. We considered this a very serious breach of security and immediately took the support tools offline. We'll put them back only when they're safe and secure."
This is not the first reported security breach of Obama's data. Newsweek reported in November that an unknown, foreign entity hacked the computer systems and Web sites of Obama and Republican Party candidate John McCain during the presidential campaign.
The hacked Twitter accounts come in the wake of a recent phishing scam that redirected Twitter users to fraudulent links and a bogus Web site.
Twitter is an increasingly popular microblogging service that's free to use. Several state and local government officials and agencies use it to post updates.
Security experts say it's likely Obama will have to give up some of the technological trappings he became accustomed to on the campaign trail. Obama will likely have to hand over his BlackBerry on Inauguration Day. Obama has said he wants to be the first U.S. president to have a laptop on the Oval Office desk.