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Twitter Breach Hits Cyber Education Director Who Formerly Ran the Federal E-Gov Office

Flickr user eldh

This story has been updated with a response from the victim, Karen Evans. 

Hackers apparently have overtaken the Twitter account of a former top White House technology official who now runs a cyber education campaign.

On Tuesday morning, the account of Karen Evans, who held what is now the federal chief information officer position under President George W. Bush, was sending private "direct" messages to acquaintances that stated: "can't wait.... [malicious link]." Later, her public Twitter feed, @evans5560, was displaying weight loss ads. 

As the national director for the U.S. Cyber Challenge, a nonprofit group working to build a more skilled cybersecurity workforce, Evans facilitates high school and college competitions that lead to information security-related scholarships, internships and jobs.

The incident likely is a spam attack not an operation aimed at cyber espionage or political disruption, such as a recent campaign in which intruders obtained the personal Gmail and Twitter passwords of several White House employees who handle social media outreach. 

Evans sent a few tweets related to the cyber competitions between January and March after taking a year-long hiatus from the social messaging service. 

"I think its a stale and unmanaged account, so the credentials were probably stolen from someplace else," said John C. A. Bambenek, a cyber specialist who also monitors malicious activity on the Web for the nonprofit Internet Storm Center.  

Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer of consulting firm Secure Ideas, said in an email,  "I have seen these types of attacks very often. Twitter has become a place for attackers to deliver malware from a 'trusted' source."

Late Monday, Evans said she had tracked the issue back to a direct message received from another former White House official. 

"I did not open it in Twitter but rather opened the message in email and that is how my contact list was obtained (because I don’t have a lot of followers in Twitter)," she said in an email. 

Evans has since reset all her passwords and "deactivated the Twitter account in order to reset my password in twitter and to shut down the activity," she said. Evans is now in the process of scanning and cleaning all her devices. 

"I don’t know that I was specifically targeted but rather I should have known better," she said. 

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