GoDaddy is admitting that one of its workers fell for a social engineering attack that opened the door for a hacker to take over a customer's domain names. That takeover resulted in the Twitter handle extortion of the customer, Naoki Hiroshima.
Hiroshima had a rare Twitter username: @N. Some people had offered him as much as $50,000 for the name. Others tried to steal it. In the end, an extortionist pried it out of his digital grip, he shared in a blog post.
"Most Web sites use e-mail as a method of verification. If your e-mail account is compromised, an attacker can easily reset your password on many other Web sites. By taking control of my domain name at GoDaddy, my attacker was able to control my e-mail," Hiroshima wrote.
As the story goes, Hiroshima soon realized that his coveted Twitter username was the target. The attacker tried to reset his Twitter password several times and found he couldn't receive any of the reset emails because it took time for the change of his domain's MX record, which controls the e-mail domain server. The attacker tried to compromise Hiroshima's Facebook account before he received an e-mail from the attacker.
"I've seen you spoke with an accomplice of mine, I would just like to inform you that you were correct, @N was the target. it appears extremely inactive, I would also like to inform you that your GoDaddy domains are in my possession, one fake purchase and they can be repossessed by godaddy and never seen again D:" the e-mail said.
"I see you run quite a few nice Web sites so I have left those alone for now, all data on the sites has remained intact. Would you be willing to compromise? access to @N for about 5 minutes while I swap the handle in exchange for your godaddy, and help securing your data?"
GoDaddy Belly Flops
GoDaddy was unable to help him solve the problem because it said he wasn't the "current registrant." Hiroshima said GoDaddy asked the attacker if it was OK to change account information but never asked Hiroshima if it was OK when the attacker first did it.
"I was infuriated that GoDaddy had put the burden on the true owner," Hiroshima said. The attacker sent another e-mail and he wound up releasing the Twitter handle, changing his to @N_is_stolen. When Hiroshima asked the attacker how he managed the heist, the criminal said he called PayPal and used some "simple engineering tactics" to obtain the last four digits of his credit card, then called GoDaddy and told them he lost the card but remembered those last four digits.
"To avoid their imprudence from destroying your digital life, don't let companies such as PayPal and GoDaddy store your credit card information," Hiroshima said. I just removed mine. I'll also be leaving GoDaddy and PayPal as soon as possible."