Twitter blocks tweets by verified users after hack exposed some to Bitcoin scammers
Twitter was subject to a hack attack on Wednesday that disrupted the usage of its most high-profile users, leaving verified accounts unable to tweet normally. The hacking affected some prominent Twitter personalities, including Joe Biden and Elon Musk, and stirred national security concerns from some lawmakers who thought the episode could have compromised the account of President Donald Trump, although there was no proof of that.
On Wednesday, Twitter “blue-check marks” were locked out of tweeting and commenting, while the messaging service said it was working to address the issue. Blue-check marks is the nickname given to the accounts on Twitter that are verified, imparting a certain authority on the platform. Blue-check marks accompany the profiles of media, brands, celebrities and politicians.
Twitter notified those accounts that they could not tweet because their activity set off its spam detection systems.
“We are aware of a security incident impacting accounts on Twitter,” Twitter support staff tweeted on Wednesday. “We are investigating and taking steps to fix it. We will update everyone shortly.” By Wednesday night, some accounts appeared to be restored after a nearly three-hour downtime.
The disruptions followed incidents earlier in the day, when accounts for Barack Obama, Kanye West, Bill Gates, Biden and Musk were among those commandeered by hackers. The hackers sent out a spam notice from those accounts asking for Bitcoin donations. Bitcoin is the digital currency popular among internet-savvy profiteers.
“I am giving back to the community,” the fraudulent tweets said from the official accounts. “All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled.”
It is a common online scam to trick people into giving up their Bitcoin, but this time it was coming from verified Twitter users and popular politicians. The Biden campaign confirmed for The New York Times that Twitter removed the offending tweet and took back control of his account.
Twitter, however, appeared to be unable to get full control of the problem, as more erroneous messages kept flying on other accounts. Twitter eventually shut down all verified accounts from sending any messages.
The attack did not appear to affect anyone without a blue-check mark. Twitter has 166 million daily users.
For many users, the hack was a time to joke about the downfall of verified Twitter accounts, since they were the only people able to send messages. Brands, publishers and celebs were silenced.
More seriously, the attack offered flashbacks of 2016, when another candidate for president had online accounts compromised. The Hillary Clinton campaign was notoriously targeted by foreign hackers, who were able to use stolen material to influence the election.
Twitter users have personal information in their accounts that could equally be susceptible to espionage, including private direct messages. The hackers could also have used the message board to sow more chaos than just a Bitcoin scam.
There were some signs that scam worked, according to Damon McCoy, a cybersecurity expert and assistant professor at New York University Tandon School of Engineering. McCoy said in an email on Wednesday that the “hack has already encouraged many transactions.”
On Wednesday, in the midst of the attack, Republican Senator Josh Hawley fired off a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking about the security of the platform. Hawley speculated about how attacks could affect one of Twitter’s most important users, the president of the United States. “Did this attack threaten the security of the president?” Hawley asked.