Twitter can lock user accounts every time it believes the users are abusing its services for activities not allowed by the usage policy or for security reason, if the company identify suspicious behavior which could indicate that an account may have been hacked.
In order to unlock the account, the owner needs to confirm his identity by providing some information, such as the email address and the phone number.
The security expert Karan Saini devised a method to bypass the Twitter account locking mechanism by adding the targeted account to a mobile device.
The researcher added the Twitter locked account to his iPhone via the mobile Settings page, then it was enough to install the Twitter app on the device to get full access to the account.
Karan Saini explained that even with this procedure the account remained locked on the Twitter website. In order to complete the bypass procedure, the attacker needs to retrieve the information to unlock it. In order to achieve his goal, Karan Saini used the iOS Twitter app to access the account’s settings and get the email address and phone number of the legitimate owner of the account. At this point, the attacker can unlock the Twitter locked account by starting the official verification procedure.
“After some more failed attempts, I remembered that it was possible to add your Twitter account to your iPhone through device settings.” wrote the expert. “
“The settings option for Twitter (which allows you to add/remove Twitter accounts) is present on your phone even if you’ve never installed the Twitter app before. “I was able to add my locked Twitter account to my device through settings without any problems.”
The researchers highlighted that the exploitation of the flaw was useful when an attacker who had stolen the targeted user’s credentials wants to prevent being locked out of the account.
Below the timeline of the vulnerability:
The flaw was reported to Twitter on October 7 and it was patched a few days later. The researcher said he received an unspecified bug bounty for his work.
Twitter launched a bounty program in 2014, it is run on the HackerOne platform and bug hunters could earn up to $15,000 for most severe issues.
Since 2014, Twitter has paid out a total of more than $600,000 for 600 vulnerabilities.
(Security Affairs – Twitter Locked Accounts, hacking)
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