Twitter hacking could have serious electoral consequences, says New York
The July 15 BTC scam, which involved hacking high-profile Twitter accounts, demonstrates weak election security, according to a report from the New York State Department of Finance.
The report says public institutions are „falling short of the new challenges posed by social media.“
The report recommended the creation of a new social media regulator.
The Trust Project is an international consortium of news organizations based on transparency standards.
The July 15 Twitter hack not only compromised the accounts of millions of users, but also led to the theft of over $ 118,000 in Bitcoin (BTC). New York authorities warn the hack demonstrated a weakness that could have serious implications for the U.S. election.
A $ 118,000 hack
On July 15, a Florida teenager could have hacked into the Twitter network using a simple phishing technique. After hijacking the accounts of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and President Barack Obama, the high school student demanded Bitcoin in a classic scam.
In the end, the culprit was awarded around $ 118,000, security was restored, and a suspect was arrested. However, the attack revealed just how vulnerable Twitter was. Additionally, once the hack became apparent to Twitter’s security team, they realized there was no elaborate mechanism in place to stop the hack. At the time of the attack, Twitter decided to simply lock down all verified members until everything was back to order.
On October 15, the New York State Department of Finance released a report on the hack , highlighting the negative implications it could have on the controversial US election on November 3, 2020.
The problem, according to the report, is twofold. On the one hand, the attack was not very sophisticated. Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was ultimately charged with 30 crimes related to the incident . Although apparently tech-savvy, Clark did not need any expertise to complete the attack.
Instead, it relied on a phishing scam. It basically boiled down to calling Twitter employees who had high security clearances, saying he was from IT, and asking them to give him their passwords.
The report cautioned about the importance of this vulnerability:
The extraordinary access hackers gained with this simple technique underscores the vulnerability of Twitter’s cybersecurity and the potential for devastating consequences. Notably, the Twitter hack did not involve any of the high tech or sophisticated techniques often used in cyber attacks – no malware, no exploits, and no backdoors.
The second problem, according to the report, is the influence of Twitter. Twitter has around 330 million active users . These 330 million users have considerable influence. They are not required to meet fact-checking standards and can still support a claim by calling it an opinion.
Most notably, however, Americans receive their news from social media. A Pew Research study found that 55% of Americans get their news from social media „sometimes“ or „often.“ Twitter was the third most popular news portal after Facebook and YouTube.
Interestingly, 62% of respondents believe that social media has too much influence on the mix of information people say.
The big deal
The finance ministry focused on the possible implications of the vulnerability of such an influential news source. He found that the Twitter hack showed how unprepared social media companies are for the threat of a hack:
The Twitter hack demonstrates the need for strong cybersecurity to curb the potential weaponization of large social media companies. But our public institutions have not taken up the new challenges posed by social media.
A single hacker could block some Twitter accounts, causing bias, misinformation or security risks in the next election. With social media being a crucial source of information, this could influence elections.
In the past, many social media companies have been accused of improperly influencing politics. Notably, on October 23, 2019, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, testified before Congress on elections and cybersecurity. The issue of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency was raised during the discussion.