- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2020

The FBI is investigating a cyberattack on Twitter that allowed unauthorized users to access numerous prominent accounts such as those of Joseph R. Biden, former President Barack Obama, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

“At this time, the accounts appear to have been compromised in order to perpetuate cryptocurrency fraud,” the FBI’s San Francisco Division said in a statement. “We advise the public not to fall victim to this scam by sending cryptocurrency or money in relation to this incident.”

The full extent of the damage from the cyberattack on Twitter could be much greater than scam-posts on high-profile accounts and include stolen private data and national security secrets. Twitter has said it fell victim to a “coordinated social engineering attack” after compromised accounts showed messages involving an apparent scam involving the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Cybersecurity analysts and information security professionals are questioning whether this attack was a misdirection for some other malicious action.

Brett Callow, threat analyst at software company Emsisoft, said the bitcoin scam messages were “utterly bizarre” considering the attackers could have made a killing by influencing the financial markets, instigating political turmoil, or driving international tensions.

“Had the attack occurred in the immediate run-up to the election, it would have provided the perfect springboard for an unprecedented disinformation campaign that could potentially have invalidated the result,” Mr. Callow said.

Twitter has struggled with insider threats in the recent past.

In November 2019, an unsealed criminal complaint showed the federal government charged two former Twitter employees with accessing users’ personal data at the behest of the Saudi government. David Evenden, former U.S. National Security Agency analyst, said the potential data privacy and national security fallout is boundless, and could affect such things as international trade agreements, active intelligence operations, and potential exposure of command-and-control infrastructure.

“Is Twitter more exposed and does it have a higher probability of being attacked again and again because of the treasure trove of data it has? Yes,” Mr. Evenden said.

Twitter is likely to undergo new Congressional scrutiny in the coming weeks.

Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, and Rep. James Comer, a top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, have each written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for more details on the cyberattack.

On Thursday, Twitter said it had no reason to think attackers accessed passwords and did not recommend users reset the passwords.

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