Payment processing service PayPal suffered an embarrassing lapse of security late yesterday when its Twitter account was hijacked, apparently by a disgruntled ex-customer keen to make his feelings regarding the company known.
PayPal shot to fame as an easy way for individuals to accept credit card payments for goods and services without a traditional merchant account, allowing money to be sent and received with just an e-mail address. When eBay bought the firm back in 2002 for a whopping $1.5 billion in stock, it rapidly became the only way to pay for certain eBay auctions.
The company isn't always well loved, however. Its habit of skimming cash from the top of each transaction - on top of fees its owner, eBay, already charges for auction listings - leaves a bad taste in many peoples' mouths, while a poor customer service record results in tales of accounts being frozen with thousands of pounds still trapped within them.
The company's Twitter feed, as with many corporate accounts, acts as a mouthpiece for PayPal. Usually, the service is used to offer reassurance that users' problems are being looked at and as an advertising platform with every positive Tweet anyone makes being reposted for all to enjoy.
When the service was hijacked last night, all that changed. Suddenly, it was the negative comments that were being retweeted, alongside messages reading: "PayPal can freeze your funds for no reason, do not use PayPal!"
Thus far, none of the usual crew has taken responsibility for the attack, suggesting that it was almost certainly the work of a disgruntled customer taking advantage of the relatively lax security surrounding the company's Twitter account to make his feelings known. While the attacker had free rein of the account for several hours, the company has since reset its password and regained control - deleting the negative tweets in the process.
Speaking to thinq_, PayPal's director of communications Anuj Nayar confirmed the attack. "One of our Twitter handles in the UK - @PayPalUK - was hacked today," he admitted, "and has now been taken offline. The Twitter account is run seperately from the PayPal UK site," he added, "and no customer data was affected."
Twitter appears to be rapidly becoming the weapon of choice for those who want to make their displeasure with a company public. A cracker group recently broke into the Twitter feed of Fox News Politics to claim that President Obama had been assassinated, while the service is being used more legitimately by those looking to pile pressure on The News of The World for the recently-exposed phone hacking scandal involving murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Thus far, Twitter hasn't responded to our request for comment on these recent attacks.