Twitter accounts belonging to some of the world’s most famous people, including Kanye West, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk have been hacked in an audacious bitcoin scam. The attack also took out the leading lights of crypto twitter including Gemini, Binance, KuCoin, Coinbase, Tron, Bitfinex, Ripple, and Cash App. Some of the world’s largest companies including Apple and Uber were targeted and many of the affected accounts remain suspended.
“I am giving back to my fans. All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled,” read the message sent from the compromised accounts. We are “giving back 5000 BTC ($45,889,950) to the community” read another.
After taking over the accounts, some of which have tens of millions of followers, hackers tweeted out a classic bitcoin “giveaway,” promising to double the money of anyone who sent BTC to the address provided. At press time, one bitcoin wallet linked to the scam has amassed more than $100,000 from Twitter users who were duped. More than 12 BTC has been sent to the wallet, around half of which has since been moved to other addresses. As the fallout from the largest social media hack in history plays out, bitcoiners find themselves on the backfoot as the industry attracts unwanted scrutiny.
“We are aware of a security incident impacting accounts on Twitter,” tweeted the company’s support account. “We are investigating and taking steps to fix it. We will update everyone shortly.” Meanwhile, Twitter’s stock is down 4% on after-hours trading.
Anatomy of a Breathtaking Hack
Crypto twitter has responded to the hack in typical fashion: by memeing hard and blaming harder. Suspicion has so far fallen, variously, on Twitter insiders, a three-letter agency, and, bizarrely, crypto trader AngeloBTC. An internal Twitter tool used to control user accounts is suspected of having been taken over by hackers or abused by a rogue employee. As a result of the wide-scale hack, newcomers to bitcoin – including 77 year-old Presidential hopeful Joe Biden – are learning the darker side of crypto. Meanwhile, motormouth Justin Sun has elected to go full Justin Sun and pledged a bounty of $1 million to identify the hackers.
Bitcoin giveaway scams have been around since at least 2017, but have usually assumed the form of lookalike accounts that respond to a tweet from the influencer they are imitating. Today’s attack eclipses any previous crypto Twitter scams, and has made headlines around the world. In addition to giving the uninitiated the wrong impression about bitcoin, the hack raises questions about the potential for social media being commandeered to manipulate public opinion of everything from elections to international relations.
The hack appears to have begun with a takeover of the account of AngeloBTC, a well known bitcoin trader. From there, it reverberated outwards, taking over accounts of crypto exchanges, wallets, influencers, and global celebrities. While the unwelcome publicity may not be good for bitcoin, it hasn’t dented its price: since the scandal erupted, BTC has scarcely shifted and is currently trading just over $9,200.
Bitcoin isn’t a scam. But it attracts scammers like bees to nectar. After today’s events, convincing the world that bitcoin is sound money just got a whole lot harder.