Hackers hijacked the Twitter accounts of some of America’s wealthiest people, prominent politicians, and well-established brands in an extraordinary security lapse on Wednesday.
Twitter accounts belonging to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk sent out messages promising bitcoin payments as part of a scam that unfolded on Wednesday afternoon. The breadth of the hack seemed to multiply by the minute, with more and more business leaders and companies known for their security measures, including Apple, sharing similar messages to their millions of followers.
All told, the messages raised serious concerns about both the security protocols of America’s iconic businesses and those of their leaders, along with the practices at Twitter that may have led to the hacking. It was not immediately clear whether security breaches with the individual account users or Twitter itself were behind the incident.
Twitter said that it was “aware of a security incident impacting accounts on Twitter. We are investigating and taking steps to fix it.” Shortly after 3 pm PT, as part of its attempt to fix the problem, Twitter suspended verified accounts’ ability to post tweets and reset their passwords.
A spokesperson for Gates, one of the people who was hacked, said: “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.”
The messages slinkered out on Wednesday afternoon — Musk and Gates were some of the first to appear corrupted. Within about an hour, Kanye West — who has almost 30 million Twitter followers — was telling his fans that he would double up to $10 million in bitcoin payments sent to his account.
Many of the tweets were deleted within minutes of posting, but the breach only seemed to stop after Twitter temporarily shut down verified accounts.
Also affected were several accounts for entities that serve as the infrastructure of the cryptocurrency economy, such as Binance and Coinbase.
It is not uncommon for bitcoin scammers to use Twitter to impersonate high-profile people like Musk in attempts to rake in virtual currencies. These scams, though, tend to be more isolated captures of individual accounts.
The only other Twitter breach that could be seen as remotely as sensitive as Wednesday’s was the hack of the company’s founder, Jack Dorsey, whose account sent out multiple tweets supporting white supremacy last August. But that incident did not have the breadth of what occurred on Wednesday.
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