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Twitter Returns @N Handle to Original Owner After Theft

The coveted one-letter @N Twitter handle was finally returned Tuesday to its rightful owner, Naoki Hiroshima, after its brazen theft captivated the Internet and enraged users of the social network nearly a month ago.

One-character Twitter names are in great demand, and @N was stolen by a curiously forthright thief who abused the customer service process at Web host GoDaddy, pretending to be Hiroshima in order to get control of his sites, then holding them for ransom until @N was turned over.

Seeing no choice in the matter (the attacker could have done serious damage to various accounts and services), Hiroshima, a Palo Alto, Calif., high-tech worker, complied. He then applied to GoDaddy and Twitter to right the wrong, but as the weeks dragged on it seemed like the damage was irreversible.

Nevertheless, his patience was rewarded. "Order has been restored," wrote @N in his first update after having the account put back in his control, at around 5:30 P.M. ET. Until Monday, Hiroshima was still using the temporary handle, @N_is_stolen, which he adopted after the theft to help spread the word.

Twitter declined to comment on the restoration, citing "privacy and security reasons," and did not respond to further inquiries about the ways such thefts could or could not be proven.