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The FBI has launched an investigation after a cyberattack on high-profile US figures in an apparent Bitcoin scam

The massive Twitter hacking scandal which has seen billionaires and celebrities’ accounts hijacked in an apparent Bitcoin scan has led to an investigation by the FBI.

The FBI stated on Thursday (16 July) that it has launched an investigation into the cyberattack after twitter accounts belonging to Kim Kardashian West, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Kanye West were accessed by hackers to use them to solicit digital currency.

Twitter explained in a statement that around 130 accounts were targeted, adding that “for a small subset” of these profiles, the hackers were able to gain control and then send Tweets from those accounts.

“At this time, the accounts appear to have been compromised in order to perpetuate cryptocurrency fraud,” the FBI said in a statement.

“We advise the public not to fall victim to this scam by sending cryptocurrency or money in relation to this incident. As this investigation is ongoing, we will not be making further comment at this time.”

There is no doubt that the scope of the incident is massive in its own right, however there are fears that it could just be a small part of a vast security problem. Cybersecurity experts and policymakers are now concerned that the bitcoin scam may be hiding a much more troubling data breach involving the personal communications of the world’s most powerful people.

Twitter respond to the cyberattack

The US Senate Commerce committee asked Twitter officials for a briefing about Wednesday’s incident by 23 July. Twitter has stated that the hackers targeted employees “with access to internal systems and tools”. With this information, the hackers were able to take control of the high-profile account and Tweet on their behalf.

Twitter added that “significant steps” had been taken to limit access to such internal systems and tools while the company’s investigation continues. They have also prevented users from being able to tweet Bitcoin wallet addresses for the time being.

The power of social media

With the US in the middle of its pivotal election year, the Twitter cyberattack is a clear reminder of the power that social media can have in destabilising America and the world. Twitter is known for its large influence on the media, policymakers and investors, with many influential people and companies using the platform to announce breaking news and important announcements. The US president declares new policies on Twitter, and the recent attacks highlighted how much trust the public places in the social media giant’s hands.

The White House confirmed that President Trump’s Twitter account was not targeted.

Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX chief, was one of the first people to be targeted by the cyberattack. The Tweet appeared to double any Bitcoin payment sent to the address of his digital wallet “for the next 30 minutes”. The Tweet added “I’m feeling generous because of Covid-19,” accompanied by the Bitcoin link address.

The tweets were deleted just minutes after they were first posted. However as the Tweet was removed from Mr Musk’s account, another one appeared, then a third.

Twitter then has to take the decision of preventing many verified accounts marked with blue ticks from Tweeting altogether.

Why did this happen?

It still unclear as to what the attackers’ ultimate goals were. But concerns have been raised amongst security experts and policymakers with what has been revealed about the cyberattack incident so far. With the level of access the hackers managed to achieve, they could have caused much more disruptive actions from disrupting presidential campaigns to triggering a sell-off in the financial markets.

This comes at the same time as the UK Government confirming a Russian cyberattack on COVID-19 trials and the 2019 General Election.

The FBI announced on Thursday they are investigating the incident. Later on Thursday, Twitter disclosed that it was working with users who had been affected by the scandal and were “continuing to assess whether non-public data related to these accounts was compromised.”

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said: “We would urge people to treat requests for money or sensitive information on social media with extreme caution.”

US Election 2020

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