On Wednesday, hackers pocketed bitcoins worth over $100,000 in a few hours in a cryptocurrency scam on Twitter. They hijacked high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of President Barack Obama, Apple, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, Kim Kardashian, and Bill Gates, asking for bitcoins to be sent to a single digital wallet in exchange for more bitcoins. Reports say there were around 300 transactions involved.
In a statement, Twitter said the cyber criminals got access to its internal systems and tools through coordinated social engineering attacks on its employees. "We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it," it added. Shares are over 3% lower on Thursday morning.
This kind of cryptocurrency scam is commonplace on social media, but is usually performed by users impersonating celebrities. What makes this particular heist so successful and worrisome is that "blue-tick" verified accounts people have learned to trust were compromised and taken over from the inside. Complicated passwords and two-factor authentication are of no use in such a scenario.
While yesterday's hack was limited to robbing individuals, disinformation on social media can have larger catastrophic effects on stock markets, elections, and social relations. Since private messages may be exposed, there's also the possibility of extortion. There's talk that the company reacted two hours after it became clear something was wrong. Twitter will have to brace itself for some tough questions in the days ahead.