- The recent Bitcoin scam on Twitter has turned into an international scandal and no one knows what its effects will be on cryptocurrency adoption
- Coinbase mitigated a lot of the worst parts of the attack by blocking transactions to the address and blacklisting the hackers
- This makes us all wonder whether we truly have a decentralized system, or just another centralized one with new gatekeepers
The Twitter hack of July 2020 may become a key factor in shifting the paradigm towards a decentralized approach.
Social media websites have always enjoyed boundary-less influence over the world and Twitter is at the forefront of that influence. As a microblogging and social media platform, Twitter is extremely popular when it comes to expressing one’s opinions in front of the whole world. From political, technological, to even scientific discoveries or achievements, Twitter has witnessed unprecedented discussions involving high-profile personnel. With tweets, retweets, replies, and hashtags available on the platform, Twitter is called the SMS of the Internet.
But Twitter is not just used for expressing opinions, it is also used for sharing critical information between world leaders and this is what makes the recent Twitter hack even more appalling.
This hack is not the first one and it certainly won’t be the last. The vulnerabilities of Twitter have been known for a long time. It goes back as long as 2011 when the NBC account on Twitter was hacked.
The trend continued over the years and Twitter failed to introduce better security parameters. In 2018, we saw the impersonation of one of the most accomplished entrepreneurs of the 21st century, Elon Musk. Using Musk’s picture and selecting a username similar to his original one, spammers used to make an offer to people through which they asked them to send cryptocurrencies and in return, they will get a lot more. While this showcased the vulnerabilities of twitter, it also brought forward the darker side of cryptocurrencies.
As one of the most atrocious attacks in the platform’s history, the recent bitcoin scam victimized several prominent organizations and individuals such as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, the Apple and Uber corporate accounts, Warren Buffet, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West with Elon Musk being the first one. The hack involved sending out tweets from High-profile accounts urging people to send bitcoins to mentioned accounts and in return, they will receive double of what they send. All tweets included the same bitcoin wallet address which also raised concerns regarding the cryptocurrency. The hackers were able to get more than $118, 000 in just a few hours.
Twitter issued a statement in this matter saying – “We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools. We know they used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf. We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it.”
This statement continued with their speculations of how the attack might have occurred and they further added- “We have locked accounts that were compromised and will restore access to the original account owner only when we are certain we can do so securely. Internally, we’ve taken significant steps to limit access to internal systems and tools while our investigation is ongoing. More updates to come as our investigation continues.”
Bitcoin or Twitter, Who Will Take the Fall?
Initially, it was deemed as a turning point for the growing popularity of bitcoin but the lawmakers soon shifted their concern towards the incompetence of Twitter to control the situation. The Cyber-criminals were able to reach more than 350 million people while Twitter showed a sluggish response. The attack revealed even more vulnerabilities in the existing system as it raised concerns over the exposure of direct messages between high-profile personnel.
The situation further stressed the weak underlying system and acts as a wake-up call for the world. The most obvious fact from this attack is that no matter the security measures, a centralized system will always be prone to malicious activities. Even though the attack is referred to as the bitcoin scam, it is setting the foundation of a greater agenda – the inclination towards a decentralized system.
Coinbase’s Attempts to Protect Customers
With 35 million users, Coinbase is the largest US bitcoin exchange and provides custody to many of their customers. In a report, Coinbase has stated that as soon as the scam took place, it blocked the transactions in just a couple of minutes. As a result, Coinbase was able to prevent the transfer of thousands of pounds worth of bitcoin. According to this report, Coinbase blacklisted the hacker’s wallet address that was mentioned in the tweet which stopped the transfer of almost $280,000 done by more than 1,000 customers. Even with such a fast response, 14 users of Coinbase had sent bitcoins amounting to about $3,000 which was untraceable and irreversible.
This points out that there are always two sides to a coin. While cryptocurrencies have a plethora of benefits, it is undeniable that they are not yet completely secure. Moreover, Coinbase’s attempts were commendable but they raise another concern regarding the security measures by other exchanges as all the exchanges are not equipped with such proactive policies as Coinbase.
What Will Happen Post Twitter Hack
Twitter is not the only social media platform that has been hacked. Whatsapp, Telegram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, and the beloved Facebook, all social media platforms are prone to criminal activities and the petrifying fact is that they contain our extremely sensitive data. The recent Twitter hack led to the widespread realization that the existing centralized system needs to be replaced with a decentralized one. The era of Web 2.0 is coming to an end and we need to embrace the change before any more damage is done.