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Why the hacking of Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account is so terrifying

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On Friday afternoon, at 12:44 p.m. PT, the internet stood still and watched as something terrifying unfolded over the next 20 minutes.

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, had his account hacked, and it proceeded to tweet a barrage of offensive and racist tweets.

The tweets themselves were sophmoric and of no real consequence. And the fact that Dorsey’s genuine musings were interrupted on the Friday afternoon before the long Labor Day weekend was also, in the grand scheme of things, not that big of a deal.

The alarming thing was that hijackers managed to take control of the Twitter CEO’s account. Not because anyone cares about Jack Dorsey, per se. But because of what that means.

Just about every journalist and social-media junkie on Twitter Friday afternoon had the same unnerving thought at the same moment: If Twitter can’t keep its own CEO’s account safe from hackers, how the heck can it make sure Donald Trump’s account doesn’t get hacked?

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think of the kind of chaos that could be unleashed if Trump’s account, which has 63.7 million followers, suddenly tweeted declarations of security threats, disease oubreaks, emergency laws or even war.

Trump’s Twitter is already ‘like a rocket’

Because Trump already uses Twitter in unprecedented ways to carry out diplomacy and politics, and tweets shocking things almost every day, tweets from a hacker masquerading as Trump might not immediately be dismissed as bogus (as Dorsey’s quickly were). And, because Trump is the leader of the free world, his tweets carry a massive amount of weight and immediacy.

“Like a rocket,” Trump said himself in July, when describing the impact of one of his previous tweets accusing President Barack Obama of wiretapping his office.

Twitter, the corporation, has kept silent about the safeguards it has in place for President Trump’s account. So we largely have to take it as a matter of faith that the company, presumably with government security assistance, are on top of it.

But there’s already been cause for concern, such as in 2017, when a rogue Twitter support staffer, on his last day on the job, decided to temporarily de-activated Trump’s account. That lasted for 11 minutes.

Twitter’s response

Twitter said on Friday that it was investigating the hacking of Dorsey’s account, noting that there as “no indication that Twitter’s systems have been compromised.”

If that is supposed to reasure anyone, it failed. In fact, it’s damning evidence of how out of touch Twitter is. Whether or not Twitter’s systems were compromised is besides the point. The fact is that someone was able to exploit its platform. That’s a big problem for Twitter, regardless of how the perpetrators managed to do it.

In total, 21 minutes elapsed before the company was even able to confirm that its CEOs account had been hacked. At 2:22 p.m. PT — 1 hour and 36 minutes after the first hacked tweet hit the ether — Twitter pronounced Dorsey’s account “secure.”

How long would it take a nuclear-tipped missile to travel from North Korea to the US? In 37 minutes, a North Korean missile could reach Honolulu; it would only take 41 minutes to reach Washington DC.

Trump is right. Twitter is like a rocket. And we’ve now had two very clear warnings that the company is not up to the task of handling such a serious responsbility.

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