A far-reaching apparent hack on Twitter today affected a Who’s Who of the platform’s most popular users, leading to scam tweets being posted by accounts ranging from tech titans like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to celebrities like Kanye West. Even corporate accounts from Apple and Uber were targeted and temporarily taken over.
The tweets called for readers to send bitcoin to an address contained within the messages, saying the account holders would double the money and return it.
“I have decided to give back to my community,” read one tweet, since deleted, posted to Jeff Bezos’s account. “All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled. I am only doing a maximum of $50,000,000.”
Reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson referred Fast Company to the Twitter Support account, where the company will provide updates. In a tweet, Twitter called the situation a “security incident” and said it was working on a fix.
It’s likely that any funds sent to the bitcoin addresses posted were simply stolen. Given the massive combined followers of the affected accounts, and the speed at which information travels on Twitter, it’s conceivable that the tweets could have fooled large numbers of people, even if they were quickly deleted.
The attack quickly led to posts from crypto executives like Gemini CEO Tyler Winklevoss, who warned in a tweet that the company’s account had posted the scam messages.
WARNING: @Gemini‘s twitter account, along with a number of other crypto twitter accounts, has been hacked. This has resulted in @Gemini, @Coinbase, @Binance, and @Coindesk, tweeting about a scam partnership with CryptoForHealth. DO NOT CLICK THE LINK! These tweets are SCAMS.
— Tyler Winklevoss (@tylerwinklevoss) July 15, 2020
“FYI, we had 2FA enabled for @Gemini,” he wrote, referring to two-factor authentication processes that should make the account harder to compromise even if a password is leaked. “We are currently investigating root cause. Please stay tuned.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York also tweeted about the scam, linking to coverage by The Verge indicating that other high-profile political accounts, including those belonging to Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg, also tweeted out the bogus links. Former president Barack Obama was also among the targets.
Hey everyone – there seems to be a large Twitter attack right now targeting large accounts.
Please be vigilant about any bitcoins scams and do NOT click on any suspicious links.
Just in case, if my account tweets any bizarre links related to cryptocurrency, do NOT click on it.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 15, 2020
That the attack affected high-profile politicians is alarming. While there is no sign that the world’s most prominent political Twitter account—@realDonaldTrump—was compromised, it’s possible the apparent hack could have done more damage if attackers had sought to create political instability rather than simply steal funds.