On 15 July, hackers took over high-profile Twitter accounts to kick off a massive Bitcoin (BTC) scam: the accounts of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Tesla founder Elon Musk, former US President Barack Obama, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, to name just a few, shared messages asking netizens to send them a BTC payment and promising to double it in return.
At least 12.86584703 crypto coins were stolen, judging from the latest search of the BTC address shared by Elon Musk's compromised account, according to Cointelegraph.
Technologies Help Trace & Identify Cyber Attackers
The malicious attack has reinvigorated the debate over Bitcoin's record of being used in fraudulent schemes. Fox News' Audrey Conklin opined that "funds lost to Bitcoin fraud are nearly impossible to recover because of the decentralised, untraceable nature of cryptocurrency exchange". For his part, Forbes' Michal Gromek insisted that all is not lost.
BTC's level of anonymity is not as high as everyone believes it is, explains Alexander Kitchenko, a crypto expert, investor, and member of the Bitcoin Foundation, an American nonprofit corporation.
"In the event of completely illegal operations, identities can be established quite easily in various ways", the cyber expert elaborates. "There are a lot of technologies designed to find cybercriminals, but the most important thing is monitoring forums where you can find the addressee who accidentally gives his IP address away".
He admitted many sites that trade illegal substances use Bitcoin. However, these sites are very often detected due to the coordinated actions of law enforcement agencies from different countries. For instance, German investigators and police forces from a number of European states managed to smash a €100 million ($114 million) online trading and cryptocurrency scam in February 2019.
"Cybercrimes involving the use of cryptocurrencies can be uncovered, and they cannot boast a high level of anonymity", Kitchenko emphasises.
On the other hand, the fact that cryptocurrencies are seeking to increase their level of anonymity is not really caused by an intent to engage in some murky operations, the expert notes, adding that this is rather a response "to excessive government control in relation to respectable participants".
"The driver for increasing the level of anonymity is the desire to slightly reduce the pressure exerted by regulators", he notes.
Cointelegraph presumed last Thursday that the perpetrators involved in a high-profile Twitter hack did not appear to be "sophisticated BTC users", as they "left trails leading to and from major exchanges that presumably hold the keys to their identities". The media outlet's analysis indicates that the addresses used by the culprits were previously connected to the Coinbase and BitMex exchanges. "If our analysis is correct, then several major crypto entities should be able to identify the hackers", Cointelegraph suggested.
According to Forbes, investigators from all over the world are now tracing stolen funds some of which have found their way to reputable exchanges, including Bittrex, Luno, and Binance (BNB), which might freeze the assets. The media outlet underscored that there are also powerful software tools in place which allow for visualising transactions between different accounts and exchanges.
For its part, Twitter acknowledged that the hackers successfully manipulated a small number of the social platform's employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems to take over accounts. In general, the attackers targeted 130 accounts, 45 of which they "were able to initiate a password reset, login to the account, and send Tweets", the company said in a statement.