SAN FRANCISCO — Some of the biggest names in American politics, entertainment and technology, including Joseph R. Biden Jr., Kanye West, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, appeared to have had their Twitter accounts hacked on Wednesday.
The accounts sent messages related to cyptocurrency, with most of the messages promising to double the money of anyone who sent Bitcoin to a specific cryptocurrency wallet. Within hours of the tweets appearing, nearly 300 people had fallen for the scam, sending more than $100,000 to the wallet. Many of the tweets were quickly removed, but in some cases similar tweets were sent again from the same accounts.
Twitter sent out a message saying that it was investigating the problem and looking to fix it.
The attack was a brazen show of force by the attackers who managed to seize one of the primary means of communications for a Who’s Who list of Americans. The hackers did not use their access to take aim at any important institutions or infrastructure like the stock market — instead deciding to just ask for Bitcoin.
But the attack was frightening because the hackers could have easily caused much more havoc. There was quickly speculation on what would have happened if the attackers had instead decided to move the financial markets or sew political chaos. Even though this didn’t happen, the attack exposed the vulnerability of a company, Twitter, that has become the nation’s de-facto real-time news source.
The messages posted in the breaches were an iteration of a long-running scam in which hackers pose as public figures on Twitter, and promise to match or even triple any funds that are sent to their Bitcoin wallets. In the past, hackers have created fake accounts to try to convince users that the funds will be going to public figures like Mr. Musk or Mr. Gates. The attacks Wednesday were the first time that the real accounts of public figures were used in the scam.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.