The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into Wednesday’s unprecedented Twitter attack that resulted in numerous acquisitions of high-profile accounts by politicians, business leaders and companies, according to a reporting from The Wall Street Journal.
The FBI is concerned that the coordinated attack and the vulnerabilities it exposes in Twitter’s systems could pose serious security risks, due to the widespread compromise of sensitive accounts, including President Barack Obama’s and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s. President Donald Trump’s account was not affected, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said WSJ, but it’s unclear whether Trump’s account has special protection. Twitter tells The edge it communicates with the FBI about its investigation and plans to cooperate fully.
“At this point, the accounts appear to have been compromised to continue cryptocurrency fraud,” the FBI said in a statement to the WSJ. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also has the state’s Department of Financial Services investigate the attack, the report said. “Foreign interference remains a serious threat to our democracy and New York will continue to fight to protect our democracy and the integrity of our elections in every way possible,” said Cuomo, according to the New York Post.
New York Attorney General Letitia James also opened an investigation into this morning’s news that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on Twitter to provide more transparency about how the attack was conducted. “Countless Americans rely on Twitter to read and watch the news, to participate in the public debate, and to hear directly from political leaders, activists, business people, and other opinion leaders,” said James in a statement. “Last night’s attack on Twitter raises serious concerns about data security and how platforms such as Twitter can be used to damage the public debate. I have ordered my office to immediately open an investigation into this matter. ‘
The attack, in which hackers took control of popular accounts with millions of followers to tweet a bitcoin scam, was the work of a group of unknown individuals. Twitter now says the group has used social engineering techniques of a certain type to gain control over internal business tools. The hackers were able to access the accounts with these tools, although Twitter has not indicated exactly how this happened.
In the wake of the account acquisitions, which lasted more than two hours, Twitter had to resort to extreme measures to mitigate the consequences, including disabling the ability for verified accounts to send new tweets and all affected accounts and even some lock accounts that were not targeted by the hackers. The company is still working this afternoon to restore access to locked accounts.
Motherboard reported yesterday that the hackers did not in fact breach Twitter systems, but instead reportedly paid a Twitter employee to reset the email addresses associated with the affected accounts, granting unauthorized access to the hackers who then tweet the tweets about cryptocurrency tweets. Twitter has not openly contested this report of the event, but it is currently unclear how much of the story, if any, is an accurate representation of what happened. The company is still investigating and has not yet shared its full findings.