Twitter was the victim this week of the worst hacking attack ever on a social media company. But as bad as it was, it could have been worse.
On Wednesday, hackers got hold of a number of blue checkmark Twitter accounts (designated as "authentic") belonging to important titans of industry, politicians, and celebrities, and launched a scam to get more than a $100,000 in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The Associated Press reports by the end of the day, the hack had received almost 12.9 bitcoins (as of this writing 1 bitcoin = $9,111).
Among the victims were Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian, and Warren Buffett – and there may have been hundreds more.
Dan Gainor of MRC TechWatch says the crooks could have aimed higher. "Apparently conmen got on and raided Twitter for all things Bitcoin money," he described. "… Last number I heard was apparently $110,000 that people had sent along – which seems, in the realm of what they did, kind of petty."
The scam is viewed as a shot across the bow, warning of what could happen if a truly malevolent mind were to hack in.
"[They] could have picked one of the big health care companies that's supposed to be trying to find a solution to the virus, [or they] could have reported some big news and that would have affected their stock price," Gainor suggests. "They could have set up [for example] a conversation between the leader of Iran and Donald Trump, basically declaring war."
The FBI has been called in to conduct a forensic investigation to see who hacked the platform – and how.
"How do you classify this? Is this fraud and grand theft? Is this terrorism?" Gainor wonders. "You can certainly argue that shutting down what has become critical communications infrastructure for the globe is a terrorist act."
CBS News reports today that 130 accounts were targeted on Wednesday – and quotes New York's attorney general as saying the attack "raises serious concerns about data security and how platforms like Twitter could be used to harm public debate."
What's trending? Censorship
Speaking of Twitter, conservatives have been complaining, with no evidence, for a long time that the social media platform has been shadow banning and otherwise censoring their content. But now they have proof, says Gainor.
One of the results of this week's big hacking scandal involving Twitter was the release of a screenshot of the control panel Twitter moderators see for each account. Shown in the image were buttons that allow employees to keep an account from trending, and another that would keep the account from coming up on a search. In other words, the social media giant has been caught red-handed censoring content.
Gainor explains that conservatives know this has been happening but have been unable to prove it. "Anybody who looks at 'Twitter Trending' topics, you will notice sometimes that there's a topic that everybody's talking about and it's got 300,000 tweets – and then there's a topic that's got 6,000 tweets and it's ahead of it on Twitter Trending," he tells OneNewsNow.
They now have the smoking gun, as it were – and Gainor says it might come back to bite Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (pictured), who recently testified before the Senate Intelligence and the House Energy and Commerce Committees and swore, under oath, that Twitter was not engaged in censorship.
"Did Jack Dorsey, when he testified in front of Congress, lie to Congress? If he did, there are criminal penalties for that," says the MRC spokesman – adding that that could be a big blow to all social media companies that have relied on their status as mere platforms, not publishers, to not be held responsible for content.
"[Twitter] randomly restricts content, it randomly silences people in a very predictable, political way – and as a result they're undermining support for this legal protection that all the social media companies have," he argues.