The infamous Twitter hack of 2020 – a story of credibility

If some of the biggest names in the world of politics, showbiz and business can be used in an attempted hijack, then, really anything is possible, writes Katharine Wooller.

Last week hackers successfully hijacked 130 Twitter accounts, including those of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Apple and Bill Gates, to tweet a fairly unsophisticated bitcoin scam.

Thankfully, Twitter was quick to deal with the situation. Despite the audience of hundreds of millions of followers, a total of $123,000 worth of BTC is understood to have been sent over around 400 transactions.

Some of this activity is thought to be the hacker transferring bitcoin to inflate, and thus attempt to legitimise, the activity. 17 transactions sent more than $1,000 USD.

However, the crypto neigh-sayers were quick to delight in bitcoin as any criminals’ currency of choice. This somewhat misses the point, however; by the same logic, you would need to decline spending British Pounds to buy a can of Coca-Cola, as drug dealers have, on occasion, been caught with wedges of fifty-pound notes!

The hack is very humiliating for Twitter and comes at a time where the power of the largest tech firms and their policies are under scrutiny. Let’s be honest, to be caught out by a social engineering hack, for a social media company, is hugely embarrassing.

Interestingly, within hours of the hack, blockchain analysts had pieced together the hacker’s timeline and tracked the resulting bitcoin transactions. Whilst the wallets in question may not have an associated name/address, they are indestructibly part of a ledger, which anyone can monitor.

Digital FIAT transfers can be easier to obscure, done either in cash or with faked ID. Understandably, critics are concerned over the centralisation, and dominance of social media platforms. In contrast cryptos’ decentralised nature and transparency is its strength.

Regulation, of course, needs to keep the crypto industry accountable. In the UK, the regulatory authority is taking crypto seriously and rightly so. At the time of writing, crypto has a market cap of £215bn.

The FCA’s June research note showed that 3.86% of the general population currently own cryptocurrencies. Too many exchanges, used by a British audience, are in far-flung places, and not complying to the AML/KYC rules. Use at your peril!

Let us be clear, press coverage to warn unsuspecting users of scams is crucial. However, as the industry matures, coupled with reputable businesses with UK presence, it seems that the retail audience is savvy, and, more importantly increasingly comfortable with crypto and its potential.

Some of the media appears to sway towards Bitcoin being the tool for scammers and as some of the phishing attempts via email and social media get ever more sophisticated, it is becoming clear that vigilance is key.

If some of the biggest names in the world of politics, showbiz and business can be used in an attempted hijack, then, really anything is possible.

Lessons need to be learned; however, let us not close our minds to the fact that Bitcoin was used as a ‘ransom note’ on a digital social media platform. Is it really any different to when criminals would hand a note over the counter of a bank or post office demanding the contents from the safe?

As a result, the world never stopped using cash and neither will anyone stop investing in Bitcoin.

Katharine Wooller is managing director of Dacxi UK & Eire

The views and opinions expressed in this Viewpoint article are solely those of the author(s) and does not reflect the views and opinions of Fintech Bulletin.