The Hustle

Big brands are paying big $$ for social media usernames, and hackers have taken notice 

Social media. People use it, companies need it -- and they’re willing to do just about anything to make sure they get that @ they’re after. Welcome to the “username economy” -- a new scheme where web lizards (or “subversive...


April 18, 2018

Social media. People use it, companies need it — and they’re willing to do just about anything to make sure they get that @ they’re after.

Welcome to the “username economy” — a new scheme where web lizards (or “subversive marketers” to quote the euphemistic Guardian) flip username handles by stalking social media profiles to acquire potentially lucrative @identities and resell them at exorbitant markups.  

Shady, yes. Illegal? Not exactly — unless, that it is, it’s stolen.

Phishing hole

As the username economy proves its worth (some companies have offered upwards of $50k to acquire a desired username), hackers have begun stealing and selling handles — and they’ll do it by any means necessary.

Josh Bryant, founder of the file sharing service Droplr, was extorted by a hack-rascal who breached his Amazon Web Services account (threatening his entire business) — all for his Twitter handle, @jb.  

Hacking so easy, even your grandma could do it

The craziest part of this fledgling epidemic is not that it happens (cuz surprise: people suck), but how easy it is for hackers to pull it off.

Naoki Hiroshima documented (in a Medium article) how a hacker obtained the passwords of his GoDaddy and PayPal accounts using “very simple” Jedi mind tricks to manipulate the two companies into releasing Hiroshima’s personal information — all to extort his Twitter handle.

While platforms like Twitter explicitly decry the sale of screen names, they have reportedly done very little to prevent it from happening.

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