A number of high-profile Twitter accounts were simultaneously hacked on Wednesday by attackers to spread a cryptocurrency scam.
The false messages encouraged users to post their cryptocurrency funds to a particular address under the guise that their “investment” will be doubled.
Billionaire Bill Gates is among the prominent U.S. figures targeted by the hackers.
“We can confirm that this tweet was not sent by Bill Gates. This appears to be part of a larger issue that Twitter is facing. Twitter is aware and working to restore the account,” a spokesperson for the billionaire said in a statement.
Twitter responded to the incident in the afternoon. “We are aware of a security incident impacting accounts on Twitter. We are investigating and taking steps to fix it. We will update everyone shortly,” Twitter Support said in a tweet, adding that users may be unable to tweet or reset passwords while they review and address the incident.
The scammer’s website was quickly pulled offline.
Kristaps Ronka, chief executive of Namesilo, the domain registrar used by the scammers, told U.S. tech news website Tech Crunch that the company suspended the domain “on the first report” it received.
The accounts hacked also included technology company @Apple, ride-hailing company @Uber, Democratic presidential candidate @joebiden, Former president @BarackObama, Amazon co-founder @jeffbezos, Tesla and SpaceX founder @elonmusk, and legendary investor @WarrenBuffet.
Some of the accounts were quickly back under their owners’ control and the tweets sent out under the hackers’ control were quickly deleted.
According to a report by Tech Crunch, security researchers found that the attackers had fully taken over the victims’ accounts, and also changed the email address associated with the account to make it harder for the real users to regain access.
These kinds of scams are common after cryptocurrency has become a tempting means to make a profit in recent years.
However, it’s rare that the accounts of public figures were hacked to spread such scams on a large scale.
The incident exposes the problems with Twitter’s platform because so many different users were hacked at the same time, Joe Tidy, a cyber-security reporter told BBC, adding that it will be very difficult to catch the criminals by following the money.