- If a piece of news sounds too good to be true, the chances are that it is not true.
- When verified Twitter accounts can be hacked, are we safe?
- Anyone announcing astronomical returns on investment in a quick time is a scam.
Twitter, one of the most social of social media channels, is always in the news. However, on Wednesday, it was in the news for the wrong reasons. People who follow celebrities like Barrack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Joe Biden, Kim Kardashian, Kayne West, and other high-profile accounts were in for a pleasant surprise (or should we say a rude shock) as they received a hard-to-believe notification.
The tweet said that any follower sending Bitcoin to the tweet’s embedded link would receive double the amount. It also stated that the offer was valid for 30 minutes only.
Initially, Apple and Uber Twitter handles were impacted, followed by Obama, Biden, Musk, and Jeff Bezos. By the time Twitter reacted to and locked most of the celebrated verified accounts, the handles of Floyd Mayweather and Kim Kardashian had been affected.
Reports say that in the four hours that the tweet was live, the promoted Bitcoin wallet received more than $100,000 through at least 300 transactions.
Who did it?
Generally, such scams about doubling money in quick time are not new. Followers of celebrities like Gates and Musk would have seen such offers in the past. The replies to the celebrities’ tweets sometimes do come up with such fictitious offers.
Usually, scamsters open Twitter accounts almost identical to that of a celebrity using a similar picture and name. They also add a couple of hard-to-detect alterations to the handle intending to hoodwink people into believing that it is the celebrity’s official handle. Such hard-to-believe offers are usually sent as responses to the celebrities’ tweets, whereby people fall prey to it, believing that the offer is genuine.
However, the modus operandi was different this time around. Scamsters managed to hack into the official Twitter accounts of the celebrities and posted these tweets. Since these offers came directly from the celebrities’ blue-ticked accounts, followers had valid reasons to believe it to be true.
The cybercriminals have proved that they are a smart lot by choosing to receive the funds through a decentralized system like Bitcoin. Since there is no controlling agency, it can be a challenge to get the money back. If it had been done through the regular banking system, there would have been many ways to reverse fraudulent transactions.
The Red Flags
This old saying in English should be apt for the occasion. “It is easy to act wisely after the incident.” Anybody can dissect and do the post-mortem. However, the offer displayed the following red flags that people should have immediately noticed.
- No one doles out free money in this way by promising to double the amount of donation. If the intention is there to give out the dole, there are other legitimate ways of doing it.
- Typically, such conditional offers are scams. People should be experienced and wise enough to look through it.
- It should raise doubts that many celebrities would be offering identical doles on the same day. The fact that people were hurried to respond to the tweet makes it even more suspicious.
Between The Lines
On the face of it, this incident appeared to be a prank. As a substantial amount was siphoned off, you can call it a scam. However, it is shuddering to think that the damage could have been worse.
- If malicious actors could hack into the verified Twitter accounts of celebrities as significant as Barrack Obama, they could have caused more considerable damage than a few thousands of dollars globally.
- The hackers could have misused the verified accounts to damage anyone’s reputation within no time.
- If they could hack into the secured and verified accounts of the top celebrities in the world, the universal Twitter account holder’s plight could well be unimaginable.
The Positives Out Of The Scam
Every cloud has a silver lining. Similarly, this scam has some positive aspects.
- Reputed exchange companies like Gemini and Coinbase immediately sensed the scam and blocked the digital wallet’s address, whereby users could not send money to those accounts.
- It is not impossible (though challenging) to find out where and when the money from these transactions crosses over to the conventional financial system. The question to answer is “if it will.”
How To Protect Oneself From Such Hacks – The Lessons To Be Learned
In the future, one can take the following steps to prevent themselves from becoming victims.
- One should know that there is no such concept as a free lunch. If someone promises an unrealistic return in a short period, it cannot be anything but a scam.
- One should be vigilant and not respond to such offers, mainly if it hurries you into parting with money.
- Be careful when retweeting or replying to celebrities’ tweets, as this scam has proved that verified accounts are also not safe at Twitter.
This Twitter hack should serve as a wake-up sign for all who use social media communication channels to interact with people. It has driven home the fact that malicious actors can attack anyone, at will, if they choose to. It is not easy to hack into the blue-ticked Twitter accounts of celebrities and misuse it blatantly. One can conclude by saying that “Social media can be your best friend but can be your greatest enemy at the same time.”
Padmanabhan Srinivasan loves people to call him Paddy. Paddy, a passionate social media communicator, has completed his Masters in Engineering Management (Telecommunications) from La Trobe University, Bundoora, Melbourne. An engineer by choice, Paddy loves to wear his social media identity on his sleeve. He loves to write on various issues on social media, aiming to create awareness among people to be vigilant against cybercrimes. A photographer at heart, Paddy’s passion is to post exciting photos on Instagram and other channels. In his spare time, Paddy also loves to write film reviews on Facebook and other social media.
LinkedIn: Padmanabhan Srinivasan