The hacking of Twitter is surely not over yet
It’s a puzzle worthy of Sherlock Holmes – a case of the dog that didn’t bark in the night.
Twitter has suffered what they described as a ‘coordinated social engineering attack’, which makes it sound so much more sinister than a mere ‘hack’.
Yet, on first glance, it was small beer – the public face of it was that the hijacking of the accounts of high profile business leaders and politicians (Gates, Obama and so on), along with the odd Kardashian, allowed them to post tweets which encouraged users to funnel cash into their Bitcoin account, making around $120,000 in the process.
To do that, Twitter admitted that the hackers had ‘successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.’
That simply means they had the keys to the place and as a demonstration of what the hackers could do, it was certainly effective .
Yet the Bitcoin scam was as obvious as a Nigerian General offering to share his good fortune – not like the 2013 hack of the Associated Press account which tweeted about explosions in the White House and triggered trading algorithms on the stock exchange and causing a ‘flash crash’ before the tweets were deleted.
This time, it all seems much calmer, and may stay that way. Twitter is now aware of its structural weaknesses and is, presumably doing something about it. But how far away from that stable door is the bolting horse?
The fact that Democratic candidate Joe Biden tweeted out the Bitcoin rallying call, but President Trump was left alone may yet prove significant. We already assume there will be interference in the US election.
We can also be pretty sure that these hackers had access to the private messages of all these high profile accounts. We can speculate that there might be something juicy in all those.
Those will be in the nagging doubts of the owners of all those big accounts right now.
How unlikely is it that if someone gained access to any Twitter account in the world, and they would snaffle a few bob in Bitcoin and not poke around for something more lucrative or dangerous?
It’s like breaking into the Bank of England and taking the petty cash box left outside the open bullion room.
That’s the curiosity. All that, for so little. All those things that could have happened as a result and didn’t – the dog that didn’t bark in the night.
The diplomatic row that didn’t erupt, the stock market that didn’t crash, the high profile reputation that didn’t fall from its pedestal.
Something as banal as a hustle jars when it comes in the week that the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab revealed that Russia had tried to meddle in the 2019 election, when Russian hackers were accused of trying to steal the UK’s Corona vaccine.
Alongside that, the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee was snatched from ‘hapless’ Chris Grayling (as we are obliged to call him), which brings the publication of the Russia Report much closer.
And China’s access to UK secure networks became, presumably, a little more limited by the decision to begin to exclude Huawei.
In that context, this is all very weird. When someone gets access to something so powerful and apparently does so little, it’s unnerving.
This may be like when Michael Fagan broke into the Queen’s bedroom. All very dramatic at the time, but no harm done in the end. It didn’t lead to a string of intruders clambering through the Palace windows.
But it feels like something bigger has happened.
That someone has walked away with a lot more data or information than Twitter are letting on, or that the platform, and perhaps the other social media giants too, are much more vulnerable than we thought.
Either way, there’s trouble ahead.
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