Hack attacks. The unsocial side of social media
For anyone using the Internet, but particularly for older people who are often the target of hackers and cyber criminals, it is important to deal with reputable organisations for security and information. A very high profile case demonstrates how easy, and even damaging, being too trustworthy can be.
When names like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk make the headlines it is a big story on anyone’s terms. All the more so as clearly wealth and power are no protection from a ‘hack attack’.
Given the big names involved there might be a tendency to think this level of hacking is someone else’s problem. In fact, this is a major revelation and wake up call for anyone who uses the Internet for anything. Again, for older people, two questions should be at the fore.
Is security really that secure and trustworthy? Equally, is the information that appears on the Internet reliable, factual, credible, and most importantly safe?
The Twitter story broke in July 2020 with the revelation that some very high-profile Twitter accounts had been taken over by a group of what was described as only ‘moderately’ skilled hackers. With the ‘ringleader’ of the raiding party a 17-year-old.
Two red lights of concern started flashing. How could an IT giant like Twitter have their security breached? The bigger worry being the degree of faith and misplaced trust that people have in social media. If it seems implausible or too good to be true it most likely is.
This is how the Twitter hack story unfolded. On July 15, followers of Jeff Bezos on Twitter saw an unusual tweet from the world’s richest man. Bezos is regarded as a shrewd businessman and the company he leads, Amazon, is a global economic superpower. To most it seemed jarringly out of character that such a person would post the following bizarre tweet (a posting on Twitter): “I have decided to give back to my community. All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled. I am only doing a maximum of $50,000,000.”
The Internet hosts all sorts of non-factual information including opinions, false news and outright lies. Just because it appears to be credible it is not necessarily so.
If a ‘normal’ person received this kind of message in an email, they would probably disregard it as one of those offers that has to be a scam. Simply because it is too good to be true. With Bezos’s name linked to it, however, it gained authenticity. That is why people did fall for the scam and did send bitcoin to the scammers behind this hack. In short while the Amazon founder might be trustworthy and pass the scrutiny, the cybersecurity systems at Twitter were anything but.
Based on the information provided in the United States court proceedings, Twitter was a victim of a new phenomenon known as social engineering. As in when scammers ‘engineer’ situations to trick people into doing things such as sharing their passwords. In this case, a gang of hackers socially engineered some staff members at Twitter and got their user credentials (usernames and passwords).
The hackers then used these employees’ credentials to do more social engineering on other Twitter employees tricking them into sharing their credentials. Before too long, the gang of hackers had gained enough usernames and passwords to take control of Twitter’s computer systems and take over the accounts of some of the most famous users on site.
The theft of trusted identities was much more concerning than the theft of the money.
While these hackers only stole about $177,000 USD worth of bitcoins in their digital heist, more highly skilled hackers could steal a lot more money from innocent people. Simply by exploiting this blind trust in information seemingly provided by trusted figures on social media.