Twitter says hackers “manipulated” some of its employees to access accounts in a high-profile attack on the social media company, including those of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Posts trying to dupe people into sending the hackers Bitcoin were tweeted by the official accounts of Apple, Uber, Bill Gates and many others on Wednesday, forcing Twitter to lock a large number of accounts in a damage control move.
More than $100,000 worth of the virtual currency was sent to email addresses mentioned in the tweets, according to Blockchain.com, which monitors crypto transactions.
“We know that they accessed tools only available to our internal support teams to target 130 Twitter accounts,” said a statement posted on Twitter’s blog on Saturday.
For 45 of those accounts, the hackers were able to reset passwords, login and send tweets, it added, while the personal data of up to eight unverified users was downloaded.
Twitter locked down affected accounts and removed the fraudulent tweets. It also shut down accounts not affected by the hack as a precaution. Most of those have now been restored, the company said on Saturday.
The attack was carried out by a group of young friends with no links to state or organised crime, The New York Times reported on Friday.
The paper said it interviewed four people who participated in the hacking, who shared logs and screenshots backing up their accounts of what happened.
The young hackers said a mysterious user who went by the name “Kirk” initiated the scheme with a message and was the one with access to various Twitter accounts.
They added they were only involved in taking control of lesser-known but desirable Twitter accounts, such as an “@” sign and single letters or numbers that could easily be sold, according to the report.
The hackers maintained they stopped serving as middlemen for “Kirk” when high-profile users became targets.
President Donald Trump’s account, which has 83.5 million followers, was not targeted.
“The president will remain on Twitter,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. “His account was secure and not jeopardized during these attacks.”
The hack has raised questions about Twitter’s security as it serves as a megaphone for US politicians ahead of November’s presidential election.
Twitter said it is limiting the information it makes public about the attack while it carries out “remediation steps” to secure the site, as well as training employees to guard against future hacking attempts.
The FBI’s San Francisco division is leading an inquiry into the hacking, with many Washington legislators also calling for an account of how it happened.