Twitter came under attack on Tuesday as hackers exploited a security flaw to wreak havoc on the microblogging service.
Computer security firms said thousands of users, or more, were affected by the “mouseover bug” bug, which automatically sent out or “re-tweeted” messages from a user's account simply by rolling over an infected link with the computer mouse.
The San Francisco-based Twitter said on its status blog that it had patched the security problem at 6:50 am California time (1350 GMT).But not before thousands of users saw bizarre strings of computer code in their incoming message feed and inadvertently passed them on to other users in their list of followers.
Those hit by the bug included Sarah Brown, wife of the former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who has over 1.1 million followers on Twitter, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, who has 97,000 followers.
“My Twitter went haywire — absolutely no clue why it sent that message or even what it is... paging the tech guys,” Mr. Gibbs wrote on @presssec.
“This Twitter feed has something very odd going on,” Ms. Brown said on @sarahbrownuk.
“Don't know what everyone else got, but my bug sent me an advert for a weight loss program — as if that would work!” she joked.
The infected links looked like regular Twitter messages, or “tweets”, but contained lines of random computer code or were completely blacked out like a message that has been redacted.
Twitter, which allows users to pepper one another with messages of 140 characters or less, has over 145 million registered users, said co-founder Evan Williams recently. About 370,000 people are signing up daily for Twitter.