For those of you who haven’t been following this story, it’s a wild one. Seems that digital phenomenon Twitter was recently hacked into in the worst of ways. Some thief who goes by the name ‘Hacker Croll’ found the easiest way to break into the email accounts of Twitter employees, including co-founder Evan Williams. It seems that Croll didn’t even have to work too hard to do this. No, all he did was guess or figure out new passwords as they were reset and… viola… he was in.
The damage that incurred is simply scary. Many of the company’s most sensitive business strategy/finance/competitive approaches documents were stolen and the popular tech blog/quasi media outlet TechCrunch decided to actually focus on two of them in this article.
Reading through this article is a bone chilling experience. Twitter’s business strategy and some of its deepest secretive deliberations and possible next moves are simply laid out for anyone to see. These include: How it plans to compete and/or partner with Google moving forward, real details on its goals and strategies (i.e. should it get into the licensing content game,) how it plans to deal with any possible identity crisis (not sure I get that one, but planning for this is certainly smart,) it’s acquisition strategy (according to rough notes, it has no intention of being acquired,) what it’s financial goals are (reaching $4 million by end of year,) how RSS is the enemy and what it intends to do about it, etc., etc. etc. I think you get the point.
There are many different story angles that I could pursue through this post. For starters, how ethical was it for TechCrunch to exploit Twitter’s misery by publishing all of these very confidential approaches to attack the market? Some would say that this is fair game. Even though Twitter was victimized by a theft, once the media/bloggers obtain something, it’s in their purview to report on it. Others would question the tactic since this had nothing to do with documents being leaked by an employee or someone just being careless at the company. No, they were stolen. My feeling is that (because of the special circumstances surrounding the release of this information) TechCrunch should have backed off. Of course, some other ambitious Woodward/Bernstein wannabe media outlet or blogger would have just picked up on what TechCrunch passed on. So, this issue really doesn’t matter.
We could discuss the technology ramifications behind what happened. I certainly am not knowledgeable enough to offer any views on what security platforms should have been used by these executives to ensure greater safety within their accounts. But, it does seem like the company didn’t take a whole lot of much needed precautions by allowing a hacker to break in so easily by just obtaining new passwords.
Then there’s the topic that I’d like to focus on… which I find most interesting. As I read through the excruciating details of Twitter’s thinking on so many key business and reputational issues, I cringed thinking about how the company will clearly lose a step in its competitive race to maintain dominance on the Internet because so much of what it plans to do next will be reacted to and mitigated. But, I also got to see how this global tech phenomenon thinks. And, it’s pretty damn impressive.
Many companies in Twitter’s enviable position would be more than happy to simply focus on how to maintain their current status. (I would refer to that as being complacent.) Not Twitter. Its executives are clearly thinking about hundreds of ways to move this organization (and what it offers) into the next stratosphere. From finding ways to capture even more market share, to fending off enemies, to developing various types of strategies to deal with the other Web giants (i.e. Google and Facebook,) Twitter has clearly created a fast moving, incredibly strategic, ‘what’s next’ culture that is made to compete and won’t accept anything less than success. (Just review the notes from so many of the strategy meetings laid out in TechCrunch and you can see that.)
So, while the company might feel like it is standing in front of the world, naked right now, there are also thousands of followers who are that much more impressed with its business savoir faire and who now recognize what a special organization it is.
And then, there’s one last (but important) positive here. Not all bad publicity is actually bad publicity. Yes, Twitter feels foolish. But, through this major incident it also continues to remain top of mind for millions because of the all publicity and viral chatter that surrounds it. Everyone was talking about Twitter before. And, the masses certainly won’t stop now.