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Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Barack Obama and others face massive Twitter Bitcoin hack

A common Bitcoin scam has hit the big time. And it appears to be working.

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Elon Musk has used his Twitter feed as his blazing sword, cutting down enemies and building a signature brand that has placed him in their rarest echelon of public celebrity. Now, his unique Twitter feed has become one of the masses, just another face amidst a crowd of many famous and well-known accounts to have been hacked by unknown assailants looking to make a fortune through a Bitcoin scam.

On July 15, Twitter's 14th anniversary, mysterious messages started popping up on Musk’s feed, as well as several of the biggest names in tech, politics, and culture — including Bill Gates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Uber. All Twitter accounts were offering a version of the same lie: if users sent them Bitcoin, their accounts would send double back.

A screenshot of Elon Musk's account, hacked.Twitter
Former President Barack Obama's hacked message.Twitter
Bill Gates, formerly of Microsoft and now of the Gates Foundation, was among the hacked.Twitter
Popular money transfer app Cash App, which regularly performs giveaways, was hacked.Twitter

Some accounts, like Barack Obama’s, called it “giving back to my community.”

Others, like Uber, said that “Due to Covid-19, we are giving back over $10,000,000 in Bitcoin!”

There was also a special focus on Bitcoin-related sites, like CoinDesk, Coinbase, and Gemini, whose Twitter accounts described a “partnership with CryptoForHealth.”

Owners of some of these sites, like Gemini co-founder and CEO Tyler Winklevoss, attempted to warn users to stay away.

“WARNING: @Gemini's twitter account, along with a number of other crypto twitter accounts, has been hacked. This has resulted in @Gemini, @Coinbase, @Binance, and @Coindesk, tweeting about a scam partnership with CryptoForHealth. DO NOT CLICK THE LINK! These tweets are SCAMS,” Winklevoss tweeted, also noting that Gemini had two-factor authentication, which appeared to do nothing to stop the hacks.

A warning from Tyler Winklevoss.Twitter

To some extent, the scam appears to be working. A Blockchain account showing the address linked to in the tweet on Musk’s page shows a wallet filled with over 12.8 Bitcoin, which translates into over $117,800.

These scams will be familiar to anyone involved in the world of cryptocurrency, where “giveaway scams,” as they’re known, have been common knowledge. In the past, scammers have jumped on Musk’s name in particular for help, earning millions of dollars through livestreams, fake Twitter accounts, and vanity Bitcoin wallets that featured Musk’s name.

As rich and powerful Twitter users dealt with hacks across the globe, the San Francisco-based website reacted with sweeping measures. Acting faster and more dramatically than the site has over harassment of female users, Twitter Support announced that it had temporarily forced all verified accounts to stop tweeting as a preventive measure.

"We are aware of a security incident impacting accounts on Twitter. We are investigating and taking steps to fix it. We will update everyone shortly. You may be unable to Tweet or reset your password while we review and address this incident,” came the message in a short series of tweets.

At this early juncture, it’s hard to say what exactly happened that allowed for such a massive hack. But there’s speculation on Reddit and elsewhere that the hack was the result of zero-day exploit, one which, according to security company FireEye, “happens once that flaw, or software/hardware vulnerability, is exploited and attackers release malware before a developer has an opportunity to create a patch to fix the vulnerability.”

The hack, which puts a harsh light on Twitter’s security, will undoubtedly affect the company’s bottom line. After-hours trading saw the company’s stock price fall by as much as 4 percent, dropping from $35 to $34 within hours.

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