Twitter appears to be on top of the situation where it was hacked on July 15, 2020. Just two weeks later, Twitter published tweets and a blog post to give further details of how several high-profile accounts, including politicians and major businesses, were hacked in a Bitcoin scam.
The July 15 Twitter Hack
Twitter was actually on the case within an hour of being hacked. Numerous high-profile accounts were victim to a Bitcoin scam with each account tweeting out a similar message offering thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.
More than an hour after the messages appeared on these accounts, Twitter disabled tweets from the accounts to stop the threat from spreading even further.
Granted, it seemed real compared to the viral social media message that is often forwarded, suggesting Bill Gates is handing out great sums of money. This hack published a message on his account stating, “Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time. I am doubling all payments sent to my BTC address for the next 30 minutes. You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000.”
The message promised, “Only going on for 30 minutes! Enjoy!” and included a BTC address as well. Again, it’s similar to existing messaging, but assumably there were still people who fell victim to this.
The same message also appeared on the accounts of former U.S. President Barack Obama, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, rapper Kanye West, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Even Apple and Uber were used in this scam.
How the Hack Was Carried Out
So how did they do it? Twitter laid it out in a series of tweets and a blog post. The hackers started by targeting some Twitter employees using a phone spear-phishing attack. The hacker would call the employee and pretend to be someone trusted to them to get information that would allow them entry to an internal Twitter computer system.
“A successful attack required the attackers to obtain access to both our internal network as well as specific employee credentials that granted them access to our internal support tools,” explained Twitter in a blog post.
“Not all of the employees that were initially targeted had permissions to use account management tools, but the attackers used their credentials to access our internal systems and gain information about our processes.”
This allowed the hackers to “target additional employees who did have access to our account support tools.”
One-hundred thirty Twitter accounts were targeted. The hackers were able to tweet from 45 of them, access the DM inbox of 36, and download the Twitter data of 7.
While Twitter’s internal tools, controls, and processes are constantly being updated and improved, it’s now “taking a hard look” at how it can make them more secure.”
Twitter has been the victim of hacks before, such as the viral birth year Twitter hoax and was also used to make off with $180K in Bitcoins in a very similar hack to the July 15 instance by posing as Elon Musk.