In brief

  • Over 1,000 people had access to the Twitter admin panel at the center of its recent social engineering hack
  • Those with access reportedly included low-paid outside support staff from Cognizant, an IT support firm.
  • During a recent earnings call, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for the incident.

Twitter's ‘God Mode’ administrative panel, which was used by hackers to post Bitcoin scam messages and read people’s private direct messages, was available to over 1,000 people working for the company, including outside contractors from a firm called Cognizant, according to a report from Reuters

For its part, Twitter has declined to comment on the figure. The sources Reuters spoke to said that Twitter had gotten better about restricting and monitoring access to this admin panel following a scandal last year where two former Twitter employees were caught spying on Saudi dissidents on behalf of the Kingdom’s law enforcement.

Court documents filed at the time claim that the process of collecting this sensitive information was “trivial,” demonstrating the susceptibility of social media companies to insider attacks.

Outside staff had access to Twitter's 'God Mode' panel

Employees of IT contractor Cognizant also reportedly had access to Twitter's admin panel. The firm was in the news in late 2019 after an investigation by  The Verge that its staff working as contractors for Facebook’s content moderation team were paid nearly minimum wage for moderating trauma-inducing content including videos of suicide and animal abuse. A number of security experts interviewed by Reuters identified lower-paid outside support staff as a potential source of security threats for firms like Twitter. 

During Twitter’s recent earnings call, company CEO Jack Dorsey apologized for the breach, saying the company “fell behind” in its security protocols. 

“Last week was a really tough week for all of us at Twitter, and we feel terrible about the security incident that negatively affected the people we serve and their trust in us,” Dorsey said in prepared remarks on an earnings call. “Security doesn’t have an endpoint. It’s a constant iteration to stay steps ahead of adversaries. We fell behind, both in our protections against social engineering of our employees and restrictions on our internal tools.”

Dorsey confirmed during the call that Twitter is cooperating with the FBI in its investigation of the breach. 

Twitter reports soft earnings, but audience jump

Twitter reported during its earnings that it had a big increase in the number of daily active users—186 million, up 34% from the second quarter last year—but sagging revenue with sales down 19% to $683 million as Covid-19 wreaks havoc on the world economy. 

Twitter ended the Thursday US trading day up 4% closing at $38.44.

This story was produced in collaboration with our friends at Forkast, a content platform focused on emerging technology at the intersection of business, economy, and politics, from Asia to the world.