16 Jul 2020

Twitter accounts of major US figures 'hacked' in apparent Bitcoin scam

11:03 am on 16 July 2020

Billionaires Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are among several high-profile individuals targeted by hackers on Twitter in an apparent Bitcoin scam.

Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos

Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos. Photo: AFP

The cause of the breach was not immediately clear and more than an hour after the first wave of hacks, Twitter took the extraordinary step of preventing at least some verified accounts from publishing messages altogether.

The official accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Kanye West also requested donations in the cryptocurrency.

"Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time," a tweet from Mr Gates's account said. "You send $1000, I send you back $2000."

The tweets were deleted just minutes after they first were posted.

On Musk's official account, the Tesla and SpaceX chief appeared to offer to double any Bitcoin payment sent to the address of his digital wallet "for the next hour".

"I'm feeling generous because of Covid-19," the tweet added, along with a Bitcoin link address.

As well as rapper Kanye West, former US President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, major companies Uber and the Apple Corporation were targeted.

"Double your Bitcoin" scams have been a persistent pest on Twitter for years, but this appears unprecedented with the actual accounts of public figures hijacked and on a large scale.

In the short time it was online, the address displayed in the tweets received hundreds of contributions totalling more than $100,000.

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Some verified accounts were unable to operate after the apparent hack Photo: RNZ

Some verified users were unable to operate their Twitter accounts after the apparent hack.

Verified users include celebrities and journalists, but also governments, politicians and heads of state.

Twitter told users they might be be unable to Tweet or reset your password while it reviewed and addressed the incident. The company later said it was looking into the incident and would issue a statement soon.

The Twitter accounts targeted all have millions of followers.

The fact that so many different users have been compromised at the same time implies that this is a problem with Twitter's platform itself, the BBC reports.

Early suggestions are that someone has managed to get hold of some sort of administration privileges and bypassed the passwords of pretty much any account they want.

- BBC / Reuters / RNZ

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