But what if a real company sends a real email warning to users that they may have been compromised by a phish from a fake company using a bogus email? Confused?
So were Twitter users on Thursday after all of this happened to them. Here are five things you should know about the alleged Twitter hack, and some things you can do to stay safe (or at least safer).
1. This week, some personal and business Twitter accounts, including TechCruch, fell prey to a phishing scheme of some kind.
2. Hacked Twitter accounts sent out messages promising special "deals" for those who clicked through a link included with the email. The emails, and the site, were not legitimate.
3. As a result, and to be on the safe side, Twitter reset passwords. A lot of passwords. This practice is in keeping with what Twitter states on its Help Center page: "If we suspect your account has been phished or hacked, we may reset your password to prevent the hacker from misusing your account."
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4. Twitter sent an email to "affected" users. TechCrunch published the text of the email, which said: "Twitter believes that your account may have been compromised by a website or service not associated with Twitter. We've reset your password to prevent others from accessing your account." The email went on to instruct users to create a new password for their Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, users were instructed to select a new password by clicking on a link from the email -- something end users are taught not to do if they are unsure of the source.
5. Twitter acknowledged on its status site that it may have overdone the password resets: "We're committed to keeping Twitter a safe and open community," the blog said. "As part of that commitment, in instances when we believe an account may have been compromised, we reset the password and send an email letting the account owner know this has happened along with information about creating a new password. This is a routine part of our processes to protect our users. In this case, we unintentionally reset passwords of a larger number of accounts, beyond those that we believed to have been compromised. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion this may have caused."
Twitter also directed users to its support site, which provides tips for keeping accounts and passwords safe. Twitter's recommendations include:
-- Use a strong password.
-- Watch out for suspicious links, and always make sure you're on Twitter.com before you enter your login information.
-- Make sure your computer and operating system is up-to-date with the most recent patches, upgrades and anti-virus software.
-- Make sure you're on Twitter.com before logging in: Whenever you are prompted to enter your Twitter password, just take a quick look at the URL and make sure you're actually on Twitter.com.
-- If you're using a public computer, like at a library or school, make sure you always sign out of Twitter when you're done.
Were you a victim of the phishing scheme? Regardless, did Twitter change your password on you? What did you think of the process? Please let us know in the comments section below.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.
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