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Lessons for Jack from the big Twitter hack

Image: jDrew Angerer / Getty Images / Protocol

Lessons for Jack from the big Twitter hack

Good morning! This Thursday, lessons from the epic hack that took over Twitter, the fight in streaming shifts to distribution and everybody wants to be the only work app you need.

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People Are Talking

On Protocol: Bill Tai says he has a big new project in the works:

  • "I'm taking the core data science team out of Cambridge Analytica. I've started a new company with them."

On Protocol: Facebook's trying to help the government regulate Facebook, and deputy chief privacy officer Rob Sherman wants your thoughts, too:

  • "For people to be comfortable using Facebook, they need to trust we are both handling their data appropriately and communicating with them straightforwardly about that. The best way to do that is by talking to them, but also talking to other stakeholders in the ecosystem."

The U.S. is restricting visas for Huawei employees, and Mike Pompeo said there's more to come:

  • "Telecommunications companies around the world should consider themselves on notice: If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers."

On Protocol: Fixing climate change is about to become really big business, Mayfield's Arvind Gupta thinks:

  • "What's different about human and planetary health: The market sizes are just enormous … The next trillion-dollar companies come from the entire world voting that there's a better way to consume everything that we're used to consuming, but to do it in a sustainable way."

Satya Nadella had some strong words about America's connectivity gap, as he announced a plan to help close it:

  • "If you think about the rural community today, they are going to thrive if the entire community is able to get the education, the upskilling, the health and ... ecommerce and other facilities directly reaching them where they are. That's why broadband is such a fundamental right."

The Big Story

Twitter went haywire. Now what?

Here's what we know. As Protocol's Emily Birnbaum, Tom Krazit and Issie Lapowsky wrote, a bunch of high-profile Twitter users — from Elon Musk to Bill Gates to Joe Biden to Uber to Apple to Kanye West — were all hacked as part of a crypto scam yesterday.

  • An example hacked tweet, from Musk's account: "I'm feeling generous because of Covid-19. I'll double any BTC payment sent to my BTC address for the next hour. Good luck, and stay safe out there!" (Not a good Elon-Musk-Twitter-voice impression, honestly.)
  • It's kind of incredible how widespread the hack was, actually: It got so bad that Twitter stopped verified users from tweeting for a number of hours last night.
  • Hundreds of people fell for the scam, giving more than $110,000 to the Bitcoin wallet posted in all those tweets.
  • Twitter's support account tweeted through it all, without saying much of anything.

We also know that people are mad: Josh Hawley, never one to miss an opportunity to yell at tech companies, quickly demanded information and answers. "I am concerned that this event may represent not merely a coordinated set of separate hacking incidents but rather a successful attack on the security of Twitter itself," he wrote.

Jack Dorsey certainly has some explaining to do. Last night he tweeted an apology. And then @TwitterSupport started to describe what happened: "We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools." The company promised more information soon.

  • Vice already has more, reporting that hackers got into the accounts by changing their associated email address inside the administrative tool, gaining basically unfettered access to the platform.
  • This is hardly the first time something like this has gone down, by the way. A similar breach happened in 2009 because a Twitter employee used "happiness" as their administrator password. Saudi Arabia managed to infiltrate the platform, too, by working with employees. And who can forget when a Twitter employee deleted Trump's account?

So what's the lesson for Jack? Well, it's one as old as the internet: Your company's weakest security link is the people who work there. You can turn on two-factor authentication (and you should), you can have clear security policies (and you should), but there are always risks. And there's a bigger point here about reducing that risk: The tech industry favors flat hierarchies and open cultures, but Twitter's not the first to run into trouble for giving too many people too much access. Maybe it's time for Twitter, and everyone, to rethink permissions.

Streaming

The real streaming war is over distribution

After years of planning, prelaunches, delays, and relaunches, it appears we have all the streaming services we're going to have for a while. The newest entrant: Peacock, from NBCUniversal.

  • Peacock is a little different: It's largely ad-supported, which totally changes its value proposition, and the kinds of stuff it can do.
  • One example: its Channels feature, which takes a bunch of content and streams it all in a row … a bit like regular TV! (What's old is always new again.) But most streaming services don't do that well, or at all.

Now that Peacock's out, here's where we are: a landscape with four rough categories.

  • The giants: Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime. (Hulu and Peacock both want to be on this list; neither gets here just yet.)
  • The broadcasters: Sling, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, Philo, Pluto, and other ways to watch live TV.
  • The channels: HGTV, Showtime, CBS All Access, every channel that now has an app you pay for somehow.
  • The socials: YouTube, TikTok, Instagram Live, and the rest of the video-heavy social platforms. Not quite the same as the others, but ignore them at your own peril.

Going forward, the real streaming war is now over distribution, as Amazon and Roku in particular try to impose their will as powerful platforms (and the owner of customer data, and seller of ads) while the services try to go as direct as possible to viewers.

If you're thinking about where to advertise or where to put your content, the situation's more complicated than it was when everything was available everywhere. We're shifting now from questions about what people watch, to how and where they watch it. And that's going to be just as messy.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

In the face of COVID-19, many healthcare providers turned to remote patient monitoring and virtual visits to continue caring for vulnerable patients while minimizing risk of virus transmissions and reducing the strain on scarce hospital resources. At Philips, we're pioneering stronger care networks with technologies we've spent decade innovating - and we believe our homes are destined to play a central role in the healthcare system of the future.

Read more.

Software

Everybody wants to be the one and only work app

At some point, every business-software company seems to have the same idea: "There are too many apps. What if all the apps … were our app? That would be a much better user experience!" At least, until they realize every other company also wants to be everything to everyone.

Just yesterday, three big enterprise software makers had the thought, and announced their intentions to own the future of work. (Not to be confused with the enterprise software makers who have already made that announcement.)

  • Google is integrating Chat, Meet, Gmail and more into a single product, as it tries to become "a better home for work." Javier Soltero, who runs G Suite at Google, told me that this vision is part of why he came to Google after leaving the Office team at Microsoft, and that G Suite's goal is to become "truly a workspace."
  • Asana launched a new Goals feature, and announced its intentions to be "the navigation system for organizations," as CEO Dustin Moskovitz told me. "It's hard to achieve clarity under normal circumstances" as to what people are doing and how things are going, he said, and Asana's goal is to make it easier to see the whole picture.
  • Atlassian added a new table view to Trello, and some tools for more quickly moving things around in Confluence. Michael Pryor, the head of Trello, told me recently that "information is in all these different tools, and it's just so much." Trello wants to organize everything, no matter where it comes from.

So, for those of you who run a business-software company: In addition to building your own apps, are you going to build a deep and beautiful integration for Asana, one for Trello, one for Gmail, and one for every other work-home people have? Really good APIs solve part of your problem, but we're entering a phase a bit like the early smartphone market, with a zillion operating systems and no way to work with them all.

Which means, more likely than not, we'll get the iOS and Android of enterprise software pretty soon. And there's a lot of money to be made for whichever of you builds them.

If you do run a business-software company, I'm curious to hear what you think: david@protocol.com.

Making Moves

Taylor Bennett is DoorDash's new head of public affairs. He comes from the same job at Lime, where he's been since 2018.

Brad Parscale is out as Trump's campaign manager, and will go back to running the campaign's digital and data strategies. Bill Stepien is now running the campaign.

Catherine Powell is Airbnb's new global head of hosting. Hiroki Asai is also joining the company to run marketing, and head of homes Greg Greeley is leaving the company.

In Other News

  • The European Court of Justice just ruled that Privacy Shield, the data-sharing agreement between the U.S. and Europe, is invalid due to American surveillance practices. It could cause big problems for tech companies — more details on that soon.
  • Amazon told staff to work from home until Jan. 8. It joins a growing group of other big tech companies that have delayed reopening offices.
  • From Protocol: A company called Vouch is offering insurance for tech startups — so if an employee slips on a puddle or a database gets hacked, they're covered.
  • Parler became popular by shunning censorship. But its CEO had to step in after people started posting pictures of "fecal matter" to the platform.
  • Fed up with Zoom calls on your laptop? Now you can spend $599 on "Zoom for Home — DTEN ME," a 27-inch screen-and-camera device dedicated to Zoom. Awful name, but everyone at Protocol seems to want one.
  • Images of Starlink's satellite dishes have leaked. And as Elon promised, they look like a "UFO on a stick."
  • Gokada CEO Fahim Saleh was found killed and dismembered in his New York apartment. An NYPD official said the murder appeared to be financially motivated.
  • Apple's launching a podcast. A new daily news briefing is available exclusively in the Apple Podcasts and Apple News app. As Nilay Patel noted: "Can't wait to see how [it] covers Tim Cook's congressional testimony."

One More Thing

When the blue-checks are away, the unverified play

OK, last thing on the Twitter stuff: The most fun part of the whole ordeal was watching all the people gleefully roast the verified users, who suddenly couldn't tweet for hours on end. If you wanted a blue check, and never got one? Yesterday was your day in the sun. Mashable has a good roundup of some of the funniest tweets, as proof that maybe half the people on Twitter should be kicked off the platform … every day.

A MESSAGE FROM PHILIPS

Philips

In the face of COVID-19, many healthcare providers turned to remote patient monitoring and virtual visits to continue caring for vulnerable patients while minimizing risk of virus transmissions and reducing the strain on scarce hospital resources. At Philips, we're pioneering stronger care networks with technologies we've spent decade innovating - and we believe our homes are destined to play a central role in the healthcare system of the future.

Read more.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to david@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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