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The FBI is investigating the Twitter Bitcoin hack

The hack has already triggered multiple investigations and Congressional scrutiny.
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
July 16, 2020
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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Chris Wattie / Reuters

The FBI has confirmed that it’s investigating the hack that compromised the accounts of Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Kanye West and a number of other high-profile Twitter users. 

“The FBI is investigating the incident involving several Twitter account belonging to high profile individuals that occurred July 15, 2020,” the San Francisco Division of the FBI said in a statement. “At this time, the accounts appear to have been compromised in order to perpetuate cryptocurrency fraud. 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.”

Reuters had previously reported the FBI would launch an investigation into the hack. Twitter didn’t respond to a request for comment on the investigation.

The FBI inquiry is now one of multiple investigations into the incident, which has drawn scrutiny from a number of officials. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced an investigation into the attack. Cuomo said the hack was “deeply troubling and raises concerns about the cybersecurity of our communications systems.”

Several members of Congress have also signaled their concern. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley sent a pointed letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in the hours immediately after the attack, and a number of House Republicans have said Dorsey should brief Congress on the company’s security practices and the events leading up to the hack.

Twitter has so far provided relatively few details about how the hacks occurred. The company has blamed it on a “social engineering attack” that targeted employees with access to internal tools that could grant account access. The company hasn’t directly commented on speculation that an employee may have been paid to aid in the attack. Twitter also said it doesn’t believe users’ passwords were compromised.

Regardless of the hackers’ methods, that so many influential accounts, including a former president and current presidential candidate, were compromised raises serious question about Twitter’s security practices. The company has previously dealt with employees using their position to improperly access accounts, including a rogue contractor who temporarily deactivated Donald Trump’s account and former employees who were charged with spying for Saudi Arabia. 

As many have pointed out, the latest hacks could have been much worse than even those incidents. Hackers with access to some of the most influential accounts and their millions of followers, could have easily done more than try to scam unsuspecting users out of cryptocurrency. And the fact that the attackers had access to these accounts likely means users’ direct messages were also accessible. If that’s the case — Twitter hasn’t indicated whether direct messages were impacted — then it’s possible the hackers could wreak even more havoc than they already have.

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