Hackers Hijack Verified Twitter Profiles, Impersonating Elon Musk to Promote Cryptocurrency Scams

Verified Twitter accounts of Cincinnati Bengal player Jonah Williams and Canadian Olympian Nicole Sifuentes were hacked and altered to look like Elon Musk's

On the day when the U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to announce that the first lady and he had tested positive for the novel Coronavirus, hackers jumped on the opportunity. As Trump's tweet became one of the most shared ones with over 900,000 retweets, hackers once again hijacked a verified Twitter profile to promote a bitcoin scam.

Hackers used Cincinnati Bengal player Jonah Williams' verified Twitter account and made it appear as if it belonged to SpaceX founder Elon Musk. The account tweeted a cryptocurrency scam link in response to Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis announcement. It read, "We are ready to help. Please consider participation."

Elon Musk
Hacked Twitter accounts were altered to look like Elon Musk's Instagram/ elonmusk

Elon Musk's Twitter account was hacked in July 2020 as part of a broad attack. The hacker on October 2 used a screenshot of Musk's tweet with a bitcoin scam, adding that if people sent 5 bitcoins, they would receive a Tesla Model S.

However, Williams wasn't the only victim. Hackers also targeted Canadian Olympic sprinter Nicole Sifuentes to spread the scam. His verified Twitter account was also altered to make it look like Musk's. It then responded to a SpaceX tweet with the link to a YouTube video of the bitcoin scam. Sifuentes later clarified in an Instagram post that her account was hacked a month ago and that she had filed a report with Twitter but she didn't get a response.

To curb the spread of the scam, Twitter locked the two accounts. In a response to Fast Company, a Twitter spokesperson said the accounts were locked as a precaution and they were looking into the matter further.

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However, not just Twitter, hackers have often taken over YouTube channels to promote crypto scams. Some also use the live streams of most anticipated announcements to spread such scams. Recently, Elon Musk's Neuralink event on August 28 to spread the bitcoin scam while the Tesla Battery Day's live stream was also altered to promote the scams.

Great Twitter Hack

During the July Twitter hack, apart from Musk, accounts of public figures including the U.S. Democratic party's presidential nominee Joe Biden, former U.S. President Barack Obama, Microsoft's former CEO Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos were hijacked to promote cryptocurrency scam. Even Apple and Uber's official Twitter accounts were also not spared.

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According to reports, hackers managed to collect over $100,000 worth bitcoins from the scams. Twitter later said that hackers mainly targeted highly visible verified accounts so that they could spread the scam as widely as possible.

In August, the FBI arrested 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark from Florida as the mastermind behind the hack. He was assisted by 19-year-old Mason Sheppard of the U.K. and 22-year-old Nima Fazeli from Orlando.

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