Twitter accounts of Netanyahu, Biden, Obama, others hacked in Bitcoin scam

Fake tweets from prominent politicians, tech personalities solicit deposits to anonymous cryptocurrency account; feeds of Apple, Kanye West, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg also hacked

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and US Vice President Joe Biden in Jerusalem on March 9, 2010. (Emil Salman/Pool/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and US Vice President Joe Biden in Jerusalem on March 9, 2010. (Emil Salman/Pool/Flash90)

Unidentified hackers broke into the Twitter accounts of technology moguls, politicians, celebrities and major companies Wednesday in an apparent Bitcoin scam.

The ruse included bogus tweets from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former US president Barack Obama, presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked, as were companies including Apple, Uber and Bitcoin specialty firms.

The accounts include some of the most prominent on the platform — Obama has over 120 million followers, Kanye West has nearly 30 million, Musk has nearly 37 million and Gates has over 51 million.

A screen capture of a tweet published on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s account after it was hacked on July 15, 2020, along with the accounts of other celebrities and world leaders. (Twitter)

The posts, which were largely deleted, were fired off from the array of high-profile accounts telling people they had 30 minutes to send $1,000 in Bitcoin to an anonymous account in order to be sent back twice as much.

Comments and posts at Twitter indicated thousands of dollars in bitcoin may have been sent to the scammers’ digital account.

A version of the scam invited people to click on a link at which they would be exploited.

There is no evidence that the owners of the accounts were targeted themselves. Instead, the hacks appeared designed to lure their Twitter followers into sending money to an anonymous Bitcoin account. The Biden campaign, for instance, said that Twitter’s integrity team “locked down the account within a few minutes of the breach and removed the related tweet.”

Obama’s office had no immediate comment.

In a tweet, Twitter noted only that it was aware of a “security incident impacting accounts on Twitter.”

The San Francisco company said it is investigating and promised an update shortly. It did not reply immediately to requests for comment.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition in Washington, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Bezos, Gates and Musk are among the 10 richest people in the world, with tens of millions of followers on Twitter. The three men are worth a combined $362 billion, according to the latest calculations by Forbes magazine.

The same bogus offer cropped up a second time on Musk’s account, which has a history of sometimes befuddling tweets from the eccentric billionaire. Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gates, who has become one of the world’s leading philanthropists since stepping down as Microsoft CEO, confirmed the tweet wasn’t from him. “This appears to be part of a larger issue that Twitter is facing,” a spokesperson for the billionaire said in a statement.

Among the political figures targeted, the hack mostly appeared to target Democrats or other figures on the left, drawing comparisons to the 2016 presidential campaign.

US intelligence agencies established that Russia engaged in coordinated attempts to interfere in those US elections through social media tampering and various hacks, including targeting the various campaigns and major party organizations.

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