Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are among many prominent US top-notch targeted by hackers on Twitter in an apparent Bitcoin scam.
The official accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Kanye West also requested donations in the cryptocurrency.
“Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time,” a tweet from Mr. Gates’ account said. “You send $1,000, and I send you back $2,000.”
The tweets were deleted just minutes after they were first posted.
Twitter took the extraordinary step of stopping many verified accounts marked with blue ticks from tweeting altogether.
There were reports that password reset requests were also being denied.
Dmitri Alperovitch, who co-founded cyber-security company CrowdStrike, told Reuters news agency: “This appears to be the worst hack of a major social media platform yet.”
Twitter said it was looking into the incident and would issue a statement soon.
These “double your Bitcoin” scams have been a persistent pest on Twitter for years, but this is unprecedented with the actual accounts of public figures hijacked and on a large scale.
The fact that so many different users have been compromised at the same time implies that this is a problem with Twitter’s platform itself.
Early suggestions are that someone has managed to get hold of some administration privileges and bypassed the passwords of pretty much any account they want.
With so much power at their fingertips, the attackers could have done a lot more damage with more sophisticated tweets that could have harmed an individual or organization’s reputation.
But the motive seems to be precise – make as much money as quickly as they can. The hackers would have known that the tweets wouldn’t stay up for long, so this was the equivalent of a “smash and grab” operation.
There are conflicting accounts of how much money the hackers have made, and even when a figure is settled upon, it’s important to remember that cyber-criminals are known to add their funds into their Bitcoin wallets to make the scam seem more legitimate.
Either way, it’s going to be very hard to catch the criminals by following the money. Law enforcement, as well as many angry users, will have some reliable questions for Twitter about how this could have happened. Read here