Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Apple and Uber, – these were some of the high-profile Twitter accounts that got hijacked by hackers on Wednesday.
The massive cyberattack apparently started when a slew of accounts of several cryptocurrency exchanges and news sites were hacked within minutes of one another. The hackers then switched on to celebrities and brands.
The targeted accounts tweeted similar Bitcoin-scamming tweets encouraging users to donate cryptocurrency to a wallet and receive double that amount in return. According to bitcoin-transaction receipts, the wallet received almost 13 bitcoins, or about $118,000.
Twitter explained that the hackers managed to take over the platform’s internal systems and tools used by account managers. Some of the compromised pages have been temporarily suspended. There were reports that a Twitter employee may have cooperated with the hackers.
This hack is the biggest, but not the first, in the platform’s history. Here are some of the most notorious incidents.
Last August, the profile of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey began posting racial slurs and bomb threats after it was hacked by a group that went by “Chuckling Squad”.
The trolls apparently used a SIM-swapping technique, which allowed them to transfer a victim’s phone number to a SIM card they controlled to tweet on their behalf. Days later, actress Chloe Moretz fell victim to a similar scam. Several YouTube celebrities like James Charles, Shane Dawson and King Bach have also been hacked at the time.
Two months later, authorities reportedly arrested a former member of the Chuckling Squad who provided the phone numbers of celebrities and public figures to the group.
Since at least the spring of 2018, scammers have been impersonating Elon Musk, a well-known cryptocurrency enthusiast. They could not actually hack him but they created fake accounts that used the Tesla boss’s photo and username.
The goal was similar to that of the Wednesday attack: to dupe people into giving up their Bitcoins in the hope of getting more back.
In June 2019, anonymous trolls went after one of the most unlikely victims – Jessica Alba. The actress’s usually quiet account began spewing out tweets that used racial slurs and insisted that Nazi Germany “did nothing wrong”.
President Donald Trump’s personal account was abruptly deactivated for 11 minutes in November 2017 by a departing Twitter customer support employee.
Through our investigation we have learned that this was done by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day. We are conducting a full internal review. https://t.co/mlarOgiaRF— TwitterGov (@TwitterGov) November 3, 2017
The perpetrator revealed himself as a German national with Turkish roots who was a contractor at Twitter for a fixed term. He said he de-platformed Trump after someone reported the president’s account, and later appeared to regret his judgement.
The hacker group OurMine briefly took control of Sony PlayStation’s account in August 2017, claiming to have breached Sony’s database of players. The hackers later said they only got users registration information, like names and emails, and would not release them.
The following day they took over FC Barcelona’s profile, falsely stating that the club had signed then-PSG winger and former Real Madrid player Angel Di Maria.
OurMine previously hijacked the accounts of Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Netflix US.
McDonald’s fired a surprisingly vile tweet at Donald Trump in March 2017, which called him a “disgusting excuse of a President” and said the fast food giant wanted Barack Obama back in the Oval Office. It also claimed that Trump has “tiny hands”. The company said its account was “hacked by an external source”.
The hack came just one day after a major security breach that saw hackers break into hundreds of accounts including those of Justin Bieber, Forbes, the UK Department of Health, World Meteorological Organization, and German football club Borussia Dortmund.
The hacked pages showed swastikas and Turkish flags while sending tweets that supported Turkish President Erdogan and hashtags that read “Nazi Germany” and “Nazi Holland”.
John Legend’s account was taken over by an unknown prankster or pranksters in February 2017; they went for low-hanging fruit, tweeting insults about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. One tweet that tagged Trump read: “I’m stomping your s**t you f***in’ cheetoh”.
The singer deleted the tweets and apologised: “My hacker was vulgar and kinda hilarious. I’ll try and be funnier from now on so he won't feel the need to ghost write for me.”
I'm back. My hacker was vulgar and kinda hilarious. I'll try to be funnier from now on so he won't feel the need to ghost write for me.— John Legend (@johnlegend) February 25, 2017
You’d think that the military is more careful in handling their social media presence, but the US Central Command had its Twitter and YouTube accounts hijacked for half an hour in January 2015 by hackers claiming to back Islamic terrorists.
“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet!” read a message that popped up on the Centcom’s Twitter page. “There is no law but Sharia!” How the accounts were hacked wasn’t clear, and the Centcom reassured that no classified information was posted.
In a hilarious makeover, Burger King in 2013 released a series of tweets claiming they had been purchased by McDonald’s. The bio was changed to “Just got sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped =[ FREDOM IS FAILURE.”
They also changed their account name and photo to match those of McDonald’s. The real Burger King had Twitter freeze the account and restore it within a few hours.