On July 15th, verified Twitter accounts were hacked in an elaborate bitcoin scam. Verified accounts on Twitter display a blue verified bade and are used on public interest accounts. Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.  The scammers solicited donations encouraging Twitter users to send money to a bitcoin address.  In return the scammers promised that the users would get back double of their payment.

Verified accounts targeted in the attached included Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, President Obama, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Tweets included one from Bill Gates account stating: “Everyone is asking me to give back. You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000”. 

Twitter announced the coordinated attack targeted employees with access to internal systems. The hackers then used this access to take control of highly visible accounts and tweet on their behalf.  Twitter has begun to take steps to limit access to internal systems while the investigation is ongoing. They have also blocked all users from being able to tweet bitcoin wallet addresses. Twitter’s emergency response included preventing verified accounts from tweeting, password reset requests were disables, and other account functions were temporarily disabled.

The chair of the Senate Commerce committee has been in contact with Twitter through the hacking. The committee has also asked to company to brief the committee’s staff.

The Twitter hacker was tied to an Instagram account “cryptoforheath” which posted “It was a charity attack. Your money will find its way to the right place”. However, the perpetrator’s real identities have not been discovered.

Bitcoin scams similar to this attack has been persistent on Twitter for years, however a scam using this many public figures is unprecedented. With the large-scale attack, some have suggested the hackers were able to get a hold of administrative privileges which could cause problems with Twitter’s platform. The link received hundreds of contributions totaling more than $100,000 according to blockchain records.