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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Twitter jolted by massive attack, mentions of Bitcoin soar

Fraudsters hacked into a large swath of prominent U.S. Twitter users' accounts on July 15, 2020, posting scam fundraising requests or other traps involving Bitcoin. Posts appeared for a few minutes and then disappeared and, in some cases, were replaced by other fraudulent posts in rapid succession. Major interruptions to service occurred while Twitter addressed the issue. Several media organizations have reported this appears to be the worst hack to date of a major social media platform.

Among those reported to have been targeted were Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Kayne West. The text of the Tweets varied, but the objective to dupe people into lining criminals' Bitcoin wallets was the same. Joe Tidy, cyber-security reporter for BBC News, wrote, "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 sort of administration privileges and bypassed the passwords of pretty much any account they want."

He added that the attackers could have done a lot more damage with more sophisticated tweets that could have harmed the victims' reputations. "But the motive seems to be clear - make as much money as quickly as they can," he wrote. "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."

More than $118,000 lost

Indeed, The Verge columnist Casey Newton noted that within the attack's first hours, people were fooled into sending "more than $118,000 to the hackers. It also seems possible that a great number of sensitive direct messages could have been accessed by the attackers. Of even greater concern, though, is the speed and scale at which the attack unfolded — and the national security concerns it raises, which are profound. ... The first and most obvious question is, of course, who did this and how? And at press time, we don’t know."

Looking at the hack from a different vantage point, LunarCrush compiled social media data points related to the attack. LunarCRUSH, which leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze cryptocurrency-focused social trends, search behaviors, internet chatter, and exchange behaviors, reached out to The Green Sheet with the following insights:

  1. For the first time ever, there have been over 550,000 social posts about crypto within 24 hours. This number excludes spam and bots.
  2. At 3 p.m. PDT today, for the first time ever there were over 100,000 unique individuals on social media posting about/mentioning Bitcoin.
  3. Out of all cryptocurrency-related social posts in the last 24 hours, Bitcoin’s share of all those posts went as high as 94.48 percent.
  4. This event has had a little-to-no effect so far for Bitcoin’s price, but $TWTR is down in after-hours trading.
  5. Despite this potentially being looked at as a negative event, the negative event was really Twitter. The outcome was all-time high awareness across a much broader set of individuals that have never mentioned Bitcoin before.

About the hack itself, LunarCrush founder and CEO Joe Vezzani said, "I would guess a hack of this scale would have required some kind of social engineering to gain access to a Twitter employee who has admin access. With regard to Bitcoin, this hack was going to happen regardless of whether or not Bitcoin existed."

Meanwhile, according to several cyber-security analysts, Twitter's response to the incident has been less than exemplary: the social media giant's communications about the incident have been minimal, which hasn't been reassuring to users. It is hoped the company will be forthcoming soon about what happened today and what it will do to prevent such attacks from occurring in the future. end of article

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