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Australian teen to blame for Twitter's JavaScript meltdown

A 17-year-old Australian whizkid was to blame for the ‘onMouseOver’ issues that plagued the microblogging site.
Sep 22nd 2010, 4:01 PM 357 0

A 17-YEAR-OLD Australian boy is being blamed for uncovering the Twitter flaw which yesterday saw the site go into virtual meltdown as rogue programmers discovered a way to make users continually retweet blocks of black text.

Pearse Delphin, a self-described “deontological libertarian from Melbourne, Australia” has been credited with discovering the flaw, posting the code to the site and demonstrating how it could be used for ill-effect.

The tweet tricked the site into converting JavaScript code into a legitimate hyperlink, complete with attributes which (when activated by hovering the mouse over it) triggered a pop-up box saying “Uh oh”.


It is understood that, having tweeted to say “No one tell [notorious online messageboard] 4chan about this, ok guys?”, several of 4chan’s users adapted the code so that anyone hovering over their tweets would be instantly redirected to a YouTube video of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.

The tweet was then adapted in the manner seen by most yesterday – to conceal its hidden message, retweeting itself, with black boxes.

Twitter has said that it had uncovered the problem itself in August and had moved to plug the security hole, but a recent update to its side (separate, it insisted, to the introduction of the so-called ‘New Twitter‘ interface) had unwittingly re-exposed the flaw.

Delphin has told news agency AFP that he posted the maliciously-used code “merely to see if it could be done … that JavaScript really could be executed within a tweet.

“I discovered a vulnerability, I didn’t create a self-replicating worm. As far as I know, that isn’t technically illegal.”

He has also tweeted an apology, saying: “I’ll say sorry, but I’m not taking off my glasses.”

For the benefit of his new Twitter followers, he has since tweeted: “Is this the point where I mention I need a job? I’m just a poor boy, no body loves me … except for the media.”

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Gavan Reilly


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