A user logs onto Twitter on their iPhone at a coffee shop. @Freestocks on Unsplash.

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Some of the richest and most influential companies and individuals in the world were targets of a massive cryptocurrency scam via Twitter on Wednesday, raising concerns about data security and the implications of future breaches on high-profile accounts.

Some of the accounts hacked included Kanye West, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Uber Technologies Inc, Apple Inc, Kim Kardashian, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Elon Musk – who, in total, have hundreds of millions of followers. Federal authorities clarified that President Trump’s account was not accessed due to protections that were implemented after previous hacking attempts. Each post by the hackers was of a similar nature, inviting followers to send cryptocurrency to a specific address in order to get double their money in return. There were at least 363 transactions completed, amounting to more than $118,000 in bitcoin that was stolen. 

Once Twitter detected that verified accounts had been compromised, the social media company shut down those accounts and immediately deleted the tweets. Twitter also put barriers on all verified accounts while the company continues to investigate the incident. Aside from a post from Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey, Twitter stated that it detected what was believed to be “a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”

The FBI has begun an investigation into the breach after major D.C. politicians rang alarms on both sides of the aisle. Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, responded to the breach by asking what would happen if a similar incident occurred on Nov. 2, a day before the U.S. presidential election. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), demanded that Twitter “explain how all of these prominent accounts were hacked.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Twitter blocked tweets from verified accounts after a massive security breach – MIT Technology Review – 7/16/2020
An early Twitter investigation found a “coordinated social engineering attack” that successfully targeted company employees. In the context of cybersecurity, social engineering is psychological manipulation. In plain English, it means the Twitter employees were tricked in some way by the hackers.

Biden uses Twitter hack in fundraising pitch – Fox News – 7/16/2020
Joe Biden capitalized off a Wednesday afternoon Twitter hack to ask for donations to his campaign. “I don’t have Bitcoin, and I’ll never ask you to send me any,” the former vice president wrote on Twitter. “But if you want to chip in to help make Donald Trump a one-term President, you can do that here:” he said, linking his campaign’s donation page.

Twitter Is Not Prepared for the 2020 Election – The New Republic – 7/16/2020
That Twitter was caught flat-footed by the unprecedented security breach that occurred on Wednesday evening, in which a number of prominent accounts—including those of Joe Biden, Kanye West, and Elon Musk—were hacked as a part of a Bitcoin scam was not, in itself, surprising.

Twitter breach exposes one of tech’s biggest threats: Its own employees. – NBC News – 7/16/2020
Cybersecurity professionals broadly agree on a central problem: computers and code have clear fixes, but humans do not. Twitter provided perhaps the most high-profile example of this challenge when its security was breached Wednesday, allowing for scam-filled messages to be sent from some of the most-followed people on the platform, including Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos, Kanye West, and Elon Musk.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Michael McFaul on Twitter, 7/16/20: The @Twitter hack should scare every American who wants to see a free and fair election in November.

John McAfee on Twitter, 7/16/20: THE TWITTER HACK I may be crazy, but I’m still the founder of the World’s largest computer security firm, and I’m telling you: 2 factor authentication is Twitter’s worst security threat. It exposes users to the trivial SIM Swap hack, which @Jack was a victim of. Wake up Jack! https://t.co/c16RWi52ku

Sen. Mazie Hirono on Twitter, 7/16/20: The spread of disinformation in the lead up to the 2020 election puts our democracy at risk. After yesterday’s hack, @Twitter and other social media companies must step up their games, secure their platforms, and remove all false and inauthentic content. https://t.co/G7QfTvRf92

Susan Hennessey on Twitter, 7/16/20:  It appears that anyone who tried to reset their password after the Twitter hack began (a proactive security measure) is still locked out: https://t.co/VSbxzIwyAv 

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