If you’re a Twitterati, you must seldom be surprised or taken aback when you see a wild tweet by Elon Musk but if you were having your morning coffee whilst scrolling through the Twitter feed, we’re sure you did a double flip on seeing Musk’s post, asking for a Bitcoin donation! While the billionaire’s tweets have always sent social media users into a tizzy, this one certainly shattered the Internet. Joining him were the likes of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Barack Obama and Kanye West!
Your guess is as good as ours. The high profile Twitter accounts were hacked!
Twitter Bitcoin scam: how did the chaos begin
The origin of the scam can be traced to the moment when Musk’s account issued a mysterious tweet at 4:17PM ET reading, “I‘m feeling generous because of Covid-19. I’ll double any BTC payment sent to my BTC address for the next hour. Good luck, and stay safe out there!” The tweet also contained a bitcoin address, presumably one associated with the hacker’s crypto wallet.
The tweet was then deleted and replaced by another one, “Feeling grateful doubling all payments sent to my BTC address! You send $1,000, I send back $2,000! Only doing this for the next 30 minutes,” it read before also getting deleted.
A spokesperson for Gates tells Recode’s Teddy Schleifer, “We can confirm that this tweet was not sent by Bill Gates. This appears to be part of a larger issue that Twitter is facing. Twitter is aware and working to restore the account.”
These weren’t the only high profile accounts which were scammed.
Other accounts compromised
Shortly after the initial wave of tweets from Gates and Musk’s accounts, the accounts of Apple, Uber, former President Barack Obama, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, rapper Kanye West, among others were also compromised and featured tweets reading the same message.
Square’s Cash App was another company account which was compromised. However, the tweet contained a different Bitcoin address from the one mentioned in the high profile accounts.
In addition to the Cash App, popular crypto Twitter accounts, including those of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ Gemini cryptocurrency exchange and widely used wallet app Coinbase, were also compromised.
Twitter was prompt to respond to this Bitcoin crisis.
“Tough day for us at Twitter”
While it is unclear how these high profile accounts were attacked, it is suspected that this is the work of a group or individual who has either found a severe security loophole in Twitter’s login or account recovery process or those of third-party app — or that the perpetrator has somehow gained access to a Twitter employee’s admin privileges.
Twitter acknowledged the situation after more than an hour of silence, writing on its support account, “We are aware of a security incident impacting accounts on Twitter. We are investigating and taking steps to fix it. We will update everyone shortly.”
The company took the measure of preventing verified accounts from tweeting at all starting sometime around 6PM ET. This would seem to be the first time Twitter has ever done this in the company’s history. Twitter updated its stance on limiting tweets an hour later saying, “We’re continuing to limit the ability to Tweet, reset your password, and some other account functionalities while we look into this. Thanks for your patience.” They followed this by saying that “most” verified accounts should be able to tweet, adding, “As we continue working on a fix, this functionality may come and go.”
"Tough day for us at Twitter," said Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter. "We all feel terrible this happened."
While Twitter scurried to make amends and salvage the situation, donations were pouring into Bitcoin.
A field day for Bitcoin!
The site Blockchain.com, which monitors transactions made in cryptocurrencies, said a total of 12.58 bitcoins, worth almost $116,000, had been sent to the addresses mentioned in the fraudulent tweets.
"This appears to be the worst hack of a major social media platform yet," Dmitri Alperovitch, who co-founded cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, told Reuters news agency. "We are lucky that, given the power of sending out tweets from the accounts of many famous people, the only thing that the hackers have done is scammed about $110,000 in bitcoins from about 300 people."