In a nutshell, Twitter is a one-to-many communications service that uses short messages (140 chars or less). Following on the heels of the blogging phenomena, Twitter has been primarily used for microblogging and group communications.
Twitter, and Twitter-like technologies, has great promise in many areas. For example, you could be subscribed to the @tsunamiwarning channel on your dream island vacation and get instant updates on potential disasters. A team of people working in network management could subscribe to the @myserverstatus channel and receive updates on their health of their company IT services. Passengers could subscribe to the @ourgatestatus channel and follow up-to-date information on their fight.
Twitter was created to answer the simple question, “What are you doing now?”
What are you doing now? can be extended to many services like:
- What is the status now?
- What is the danger now?
- What is the breaking news now?
- What is a good buy now?
- Where is the train now?
- How much are we selling now?
- Where is my sales force now?
- When will my plane depart?
- When will my daughter get to the mall?
The list goes on and on. Obviously Twitter-like communications has great promise, all of which assumes Twitter is used without malicious intent and is secure.
The wide-spread adoption of Twitter, and Twitter-like technologies, also brings risk. Very bad things can happen when certain Twitter channels are compromised or hijacked and the channel is used maliciously. For example, think of the peril of someone kidnapping a child who is using Twitter to covey her status to her parents and the kidnapper hijacks the channel, broadcasting “I am having fun at the mall” types of Tweets while he repeatedly rapes her.
Less dramatic, think of the peril to business when a channel followed by millions of people is injected with a malicious message such as “The AJAX company lost their main contract, may declare bankruptcy.” Or think of the peril when someone angry with their boss simply Tweets “John is having a affair with his secretary,” or perhaps “John is HIV positive.”
Twitter channels have already been hijacked or compromised, for example, Twitter is no longer safe: Obama’s, Britney’s account hijacked and Expert: Twitter accounts hijacked in new attack. There is little doubt that as Twitter continues to be adopted by users there will be more reports of security breaches.
As with all things great and small, where there is great reward, there is great risk. Great promise can bring great peril if we are not careful and diligent moving forward. Twitter, as a communications phenomena brings great promise. On the other hand, Twitter and Twitter-like technologies to come can also bring great peril in the hands of malicious users and criminals.