The Twitter accounts of some of the most prominent US political and business leaders, from Barack Obama and Joe Biden to Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett, were hacked on Wednesday afternoon in an apparent effort to promote a Bitcoin scam.
The attacks were stunning in scope and coordinated. Others whose Twitter accounts were caught up in the security incident included Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Uber, Apple and Michael Bloomberg. The accounts sent out tweets promising to double the money of anyone sending funds via Bitcoin within 30 minutes.
Twitter is investigating a massive hack in which high-profile users from Barack Obama to Elon Musk had their accounts hijacked by scammers, who the social network believes targeted its employees to gain access to internal systems.
Twitter said the scam, which duped people into sending hackers Bitcoins worth $116,000, was a “coordinated social engineering attack”.
As the hack unfolded, verified Twitter accounts lost the ability to post new tweets. “You may be unable to Tweet or reset your password while we review and address this incident,” Twitter wrote on its support account. The company’s shares fell 6% in pre-market trading in New York on Thursday.
Within hours, Twitter said that access has been restored for most accounts and added what it knew from its probe. It said the hack targeted employees with access to internal systems, which were then used to take control of high-profile accounts.
It could have led to world war 3 yesterday night started by just a tweet. It could have led to much more than a bitcoin scam. The Twitter hack shows that the situation last night could have definitely turned ugly. For example, rather than just tweeting just scam links if hackers, and if they really have access to all verified accounts, would have tweeted something like “fed up of this country and have ordered air and naval attack on it” from the account of a state head like President Donal Trump. This probably wouldn’t have led to world war but surely led to panic and then reverification whether the tweet is accurate or not. But what if this kind of tweet not only coming from one account but also from several other verified accounts.
Thankfully, there was nothing like that happened.
Instead the damage apart from the reputation of Twitter from the Twitter hack so far is people losing $120,000 to the bitcoin scam, says the cyber security research firm Kaspersky. More than this, hackers could have even moved millions of dollars, or even billions, by shorting stocks.
In emergency, Twitter responded on this by taking the extraordinary step of stopping many verified accounts marked with blue ticks from tweeting altogether.
Password reset requests were also denied and some other “account functions” disabled. One cyber security expert said that the breach could have been a lot worse in other circumstances.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said its officers had “reached out” to the tech firm. Meanwhile. Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey tweeted: “Tough day for us at Twitter. We all feel terrible this happened.”
The chair of the Senate Commerce committee has also been contacted with Twitter. They added company must brief committee’s staff about the hack no later than Thursday 23 July.