Twitter Inc. accounts belonging to top U.S. executives, lawmakers and celebrities were compromised Wednesday and appeared to be used in an attempt to siphon bitcoin from their social-media followers until the company wrangled back control of its site hours later.
After a number of cryptocurrency-related Twitter accounts were reportedly hijacked Wednesday afternoon, Tesla Inc.
Chief Executive Elon Musk — with more than 36 million Twitter followers who have been repeatedly targeted by potential bitcoin scammers on the service — tweeted out an entreaty to send him bitcoin soon after the end of the day’s trading session.
From there, the list of compromised Twitter accounts grew into a veritable Who’s Who in real-time on the service. Microsoft Corp.
founder Bill Gates, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, Apple Inc.’s
never-used corporate account, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s
Warren Buffett, Amazon.com Inc. founder and CEO
Jeff Bezos, as well as musician Kanye West all tweeted out a similar message.
Twitter waited an hour and a half to make a public statement, and then restricted verified users of the site from posting while halting other activity sitewide as engineers attempted to regain control. Eventually, Twitter’s support team said that they were “working to get things back to normal” Wednesday evening.
CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted for the first time during the ordeal past 6 p.m. Pacific time, roughly five hours after Musk’s account originally tweeted the bitcoin message. Dorsey — who also helms Square Inc.
, which facilitates the transfer of some cryptocurrencies — said Twitter was still “diagnosing” the attack.
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Around 7:30 p.m. Pacific, Twitter began explaining the situation, and said the hackers had apparently accessed its internal systems.
“We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools,” the company tweeted. “We know they used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf. We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed.”
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Shares of Twitter
sank more than 4% after hours and ended the extended session down 3.6%, after closing at $35.67. A decline of that magnitude would wipe away more than $1 billion from Twitter’s market capitalization. The stock was down about 5% premarket Thursday.
According to CoinDesk, Twitter accounts for cryptocurrencies and crypto influencers such as Gemini, Binance, KuCoin, Coinbase, Litecoin’s Charlie Lee, Tron’s Justin Sun, bitcoin, Bitfinex, Ripple, Cash App, and CoinDesk, were also compromised. BitTorrent also confirmed the hacks and said it was working with Twitter to return its accounts to normal.
While Twitter shares fell, bitcoin prices were unaffected by the fiasco. As of Wednesday night, bitcoin futures
were down just 0.1%, at about the $9,200 level. It isn’t clear if any bitcoins were lost in the scam, but some have speculated that the perpetrator of the Twitter attack may have gotten some $100,000 in coins sent to their account.