The Twitter accounts of Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president; former President Barack Obama; and at least three tech bigwigs — Tesla’s Elon Musk, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — were hacked in a massive digital currency scam on Wednesday.
Twitter said the hack appeared to have been a “coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”
Musk’s Twitter account posted multiple messages on Wednesday afternoon promising to “double” payments to his bitcoin address, also known as a BTC address.
Biden’s and Gates’ account posted a similar message, telling followers: “If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000.”
Bezos’ account also vowed to double payments sent to his BTC address. “I am only doing a maximum of $50,000,000,” a tweet on the Amazon founder’s account said.
An identical BTC address was posted to all three accounts.
As BuzzFeed tech reporter Ryan Mac noted, the posted BTC address did appear to be receiving bitcoin on Wednesday but said it was hard to say whether those transactions were being seeded by the scammers themselves or being sent by people who may have been duped.
“This goes without saying, but do not send the account money,” Mac warned.
The New York Times said at least $100,000 had already been stolen as part of the scheme.
CNBC reported that similar tweets promising a doubled return had appeared on the verified accounts of several major tech companies, including Apple, Uber and Cash App. Rapper and producer Kanye West and former New York City Michael Bloomberg also appear to have been targets.
Hours after the attack, Twitter said the hackers had managed to “take control of many highly-visible” accounts and tweet on their behalf.
It added that it “immediately locked down the affected accounts” and later limited access to the platform “for a much larger group of accounts,” including all verified accounts.
Rachel Tobac, CEO of cybersecurity company SocialProof Security, told NBC News the hacking scheme was likely the largest such attack that Twitter had ever experienced.
“I’m surprised Twitter hasn’t gone completely dark to prevent misinformation campaigns and political upheaval,” she told the network. “We are lucky the attackers are going after bitcoin … and not motivated by chaos and destruction.”
This post has been updated with Twitter’s statement and other information about the bitcoin scheme.