The Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI is leading an inquiry into the massive Twitter hack. According to a recent WSJ report, FBI’s San Francisco office said on Thursday that it has initiated an investigation after hackers accessed Twitter’s internal systems to hijack accounts of prominent figures such as US presidential candidate Joe Biden, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, former US President Barack Obama and billionaire Elon Musk and used them to solicit digital assets.
The bureau is looking into the twitter hacking, which was reportedly carried out with the help of a Twitter insider, to see whether vulnerabilities in the social network’s systems could pose a greater national security threat, according to the Wall Street Journal.
On July 15, in a series of tweets from Twitter Support, the help centre of Twitter, confirmed that hackers are responsible for the massive breach of high-profile figures’ accounts had conducted a “coordinated social engineering attack” to gain “access to internal systems and tools.” The hacker responsible for the largest Twitter hack ever was able to succeed as individual employees have high levels of access to information and control on the platform.
The New York State Department of Financial Services (NY DFS) also weighed in, saying it will investigate the hack. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement announcing he had ordered an investigation by the NY DFS said:-
“This type of hack by con artists for financial gain can also be a tool of foreign actors and others to spread disinformation and — as we’ve witnessed — disrupt our elections,” – Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor
The main investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives (US HR), the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) has also requested information from Dorsey about the massive hack that commandeered several high-profile Twitter accounts.
The extraordinary hacking spree that hit Twitter, leading it to briefly muzzle some of its most widely followed accounts, is drawing questions about the platform's security and resilience in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election https://t.co/cu4PCyV8hc pic.twitter.com/2kfxLHr4Vs — Reuters (@Reuters) July 16, 2020
The U.S. Senate Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has also invited Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify before the committee within the next week.
He expressed concern in a letter that the incident is “of great concern to the committee” as it “combines the need to protect users from fraud with larger concerns about social manipulation and disinformation online.”
“At this time, the accounts appear to have been compromised in order to perpetuate cryptocurrency fraud,” – the FBI said in its statement.
Response From Twitter:
Twitter Support reported that the platform had taken “significant steps to limit access to internal systems and tools” as the breach is investigated. The company locked down many accounts in response to the breach.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded to the massive attack on Thursday morning, saying it was a “tough day for us at Twitter”.
In an extraordinary measure, Twitter disabled the validated accounts from posting tweets for about two hours after scammers trying to dupe people into sending cryptocurrency bitcoin hijacked the users’ profiles.
Tough day for us at Twitter. We all feel terrible this happened. We’re diagnosing and will share everything we can when we have a more complete understanding of exactly what happened. 💙 to our teammates working hard to make this right. — jack (@jack) July 16, 2020
Another update on our security incident https://t.co/gdsXrWCegE https://t.co/8TShTfoYCa — jack (@jack) July 16, 2020
It has been analyzed that the hackers were able to post tweets using the accounts of various major figures to promote a fake Bitcoin (BTC) giveaway which has so far swindled over 400 users out of $136,000. The messages pumped a bitcoin giveaway scam associated with an organization called “Crypto For Health.”
In a series of updates posted on Thursday by the Twitter Support account, the social media giant noted it had “no evidence that attackers accessed passwords. Currently, we don’t believe resetting your password is necessary.”
We’ve been working around the clock and will continue to provide updates here. — Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) July 16, 2020
The Hacked Accounts:
Check out a curated list of all the major hacked accounts are mentioned below:
Changpeng Zhao (CZ)
Kim Kardashian West
Jimmy Donaldson (MrBeast)
The casualties of the great Twitter #Bitcoin hack include Barack Obama, Binance, Gemini, CZ, KuCoin, Coinbase, BitFinex, Justin Sun, Charlie Lee, Apple, Mike Bloomberg, Elon Musk, Bill Gates Uber Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Wiz Khalifa, Barack Obama and Kim Kardashian West. — Cointelegraph (@Cointelegraph) July 15, 2020
How Did The Twitter Hack Happen?
The individual Twitter employee admin panels targeted in the hack have significant access to a variety of tools to control the affected accounts by including posting messages on their behalf and changing the verification phone number and e-mail address.
Coinbase and Gemini password reset screenshots
The hackers reportedly paid an employee for help attacking Twitter, though the terms of their purported deal are unclear. The accounts were taken over using an internal tool at Twitter, according to the sources, as well as screenshots of the tool obtained by Motherboard.
One of the screenshots shows the panel and the account of Binance. According to screenshots seen by Motherboard, at least some of the accounts appear to have been compromised by changing the email address associated with them using the tool.
Screenshot of Twitter internal employee panel access to Binance account. Source: Motherboard
Likewise, Twitter user sniko_ posted screenshots that indicate that the fraudsters may have changed the e-mail address for verification for the Coinbase and Gemini accounts, as they were the same following the attack.
Yep! Crazy – looks like a full takeover/hijack pic.twitter.com/toug6PYnYr — harrydenley.eth ◊ (@sniko_) July 15, 2020
Twitter has been deleting some screenshots of the panel and has suspended users who have tweeted them, claiming that the tweets violate its rules. The images showing access to several Twitter accounts revealed internal admin details including the number of strikes logged against each account when the account was last accessed, which phone numbers were tied to it, and which email addresses were used for verification.
On Thursday, Changpeng Zhao aka CZ, CEO of Binance, at the World Blockchain Summit Asia said that Twitter offers “limited security options” and the options that are available are a “little weak”. He also urged everyone in the community to work together and collaborate in order to “fight back” against bad actors in the space.
On Thursday, Twitter has announced that it is delaying the launch of its new API following the recent hack. In the same Twitter Developer blog they mentioned :-
“We have no evidence the incident had anything to do with our API, but we decided to move the launch to a more appropriate time,”
We planned to launch the new #TwitterAPI today, but given the security incident yesterday we're pressing pause. There's no evidence the incident involved our API, but we decided to move the launch date to a more appropriate time. https://t.co/c1fc28eQqJ — Twitter Dev (@TwitterDev) July 16, 2020
The New York Stock Exchange reacted to the whole fiasco, in spite of it being closed for trading shortly after the hack was discovered. Twitter’s stock TWTR dropped at 2.5% in just 15 minutes. The shares of Twitter Inc. dropped more than 4% in pre-market trading on Thursday, a day after hackers gained access to the social media company’s internal systems.
This is not the first time that Twitter has reported a massive hack. In March 2017, the accounts of Amnesty International, the French economics ministry and the BBC’s North America service were broken into by hackers believed to have been loyal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Elon Musk has long been the target of bitcoin scammers on Twitter, many of whom create fake accounts designed to look like the entrepreneur and respond to his tweets promoting the scams so that they appear legitimate.
Last August, a series of insulting or racist messages were posted on the personal account of Twitter founder Dorsey without his knowledge. The Twitter hack incident is seen to be critical because it has happened in an election year. Last elections, the conversation in the US was also about social media being manipulated for political gain.