Opinion Social Engineering, Celebrity Reach and Bitcoin Twitter Scam

Social Engineering, Celebrity Reach and Bitcoin Twitter Scam

July 18, 2020

The Twitter takeover of social media accounts in the previous week is, for better or worse, one of the major events in the cryptocurrency domain since the start of 2020. Even though this year saw an insane level of eventfulness, the hack and exploit of social media accounts of a range of famous individuals are also going to be among these. In this incident, a third party managed to gain access to the Twitter accounts of people like Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama. They also got massive corporate accounts of companies including Apple and Uber. All of them began posting messages to their followers of an opportunity to double their BTC funds if they send their tokens to a cryptocurrency address.

In return, the tweets claimed, they will get back a double sum in BTC. In hours, the scam gained worldwide attention on Twitter and with it, even more traffic for the scammers. It did not take long for the social media managers of these accounts – or even individuals who tweet for themselves like Elon Musk does – to report the issue to Twitter HQ. The tweets have been quickly taken down after that and the issue rectified, returning the right owners their full access. However, by that moment, the entire situation already became bombshell news and also another negative nuclear bomb of exposition for the crypto community.

Inside Job

The bitcoin address that has been used in the scam was immediately followed by analysts in an attempt to see the influx of money. The first milestone came as the account with the address attained 50,000 USD. A couple of hours later, the sum was at 100,000 USD. Now, a few days later, the money that was sent to the bitcoin address stands at 120,000 USD in BTC tokens. The insanely high amount of money that was sent in less than a day shows, first and foremost, how many people have instant access to BTC wallets right now.

For Twitter, the problem however is not in the digital wallets, but the fact that the attack came through the help of their own employees. The perpetrators, speaking on the account of anonymity, even said so themselves. There are some contradictions about whether or not they paid the same person and also if the attackers used some tools after gaining access to the system or if the employee did this while in the Twitter back end. However, it is certain that they used an internal tool to, most likely, change the email address associate with the account. Among the companies they targeted was Binance, one of the biggest crypto exchange platforms in the world.

Origins of the Attack

With an insane number of affected entities, including so many in the cryptocurrency domain, like Gemini and Coinbase, the disturbance the attack provided is truly earth-shattering. However, it was the political entities that seemingly raised the biggest alarm. Ever since a couple of years ago, any malicious activity on any Western political figure or movement is taken especially seriously, mainly because of the connection that these attacks often have with governments of nations like North Korea, Iran, and Russia.

In this case, Republican Senator Josh Hawley wrote to Jack Dorey, the CEO of Twitter, asking for more info about the attack that took place. Intestnely, even though it is insanely popular, the account of Donald Trump was not touched with this incursion. Also, Twitter offered no additional information about the potential source or origins of the attack. While many in the US in particular will work hard on trying to pin this to a particular political actor, it appears that the hack had no other motivation than criminal profit.

Celebrity Reach

The incident probably took back many by surprise, mainly on the account of the sheer impact it had on the global level. By combining celebrities and so many massive corporate accounts, the attackers basically made sure anyone who is on Twitter will see some version of the message. Furthermore, when the attack took place, millions were puzzled by the messages, so terms like Bill Gates began trending, which in turn pushed even more people to the same scam tweets, all until they were taken down.

Also, anyone who shared the tweets without removing the bitcoin address also technically helped in this massive spread. This showcased that in the modern world, where often esports have a better rate of growth than traditional sports, some messages can spread out fast and wide, even when people who disseminate them understand they might be malicious in nature.

Digital Wallet Prevalence

The incident might again create the connection between online scams and digital currency, more precisely bitcoin, but this time, the fallout will not rain on the network. Instead, it appears that the ire of those affected is focusing on the management of Twitter, which allowed an attack on this huge scale to take place using basically nothing more sophisticated than social engineering or bribery. Both alternatives are equally bad and damaging, which is why the social media giant is presently in unprecedented damage control mode.

At the same time, the incident and the amount of money which it generated in such a short time frame, shows, in a roundabout way, that the potential of cryptocurrencies is rising. If so many users can be scammed to give out 120,000 USD in bitcoin, it shows that many more people have both digital wallets and funds in them. This is one of the arguments of the slow-burning user adoption that many believe to be taking place away from the limelight.

By these numbers, the process seems to be unraveling and spreading. Also, this fits perfectly into the fact that major fintech companies, like soon (if all goes well) PayPal are facilitating this rise in adoption. Unlike bitcoin futures which appeared in 2017 with a bang, these are outside of the media attention span, but clearly more than present. That is why even a global bitcoin scam can underline the same fact when all of the flashy elements are taken away from the story.