Before Twitter hack campaign, online forum offered user accounts for $2,500

Before Twitter hack campaign, online forum offered user accounts for $2,500

For $250, the seller promised to reveal the e-mail and for $2,500, the entire account

Twitter | Hacking | Bill Gates



Although the details are still coming into focus — and Twitter and the FBI are still investigating

Before a hacking campaign tore through Twitter and compromised some of its most high-profile users, an ad went up on a gray market site that facilitates the trade of user accounts for many popular websites including Twitter. For $250 in digital currency, the seller promised they’d reveal the email linked to a Twitter account. And for $2,500, the buyer would get the account itself — satisfaction guaranteed. “You will be given a full refund if for any reason you aren’t given the email/@,” the poster said, describing the Twitter account with an @ sign. The ad, a screenshot of which was provided to Reuters by Hudson Rock, an Israeli company that monitors online forums for stolen credentials and breached data, was an early indication that all was not well at Twitter, a company which is still reeling from the hijacking of a slew of VIP accounts, including those belonging to reality TV star Kim Kardashian, founder Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. ALSO READ: Vodafone Idea gets TDSAT relief, allowed to offer premium tariff plans Although the details are still coming into focus — and Twitter and the FBI are still investigating — the fact that early word of the hack spread on a forum popular with gamers and Instagram account swappers suggests the incident likely had a nexus with low-level cybercrime rather than nation state-level subterfuge. “This doesn’t look like a particularly sophisticated hacking group,” said Roi Carthy, the chief executive of Hudson Rock. An administrator at OGUsers, the account trading forum, confirmed the screenshot was authentic, telling Reuters the user selling the ad – named “chaewon” — was suspended once those that ran the site realised what was happening. He said his site — whose users particularly treasure accounts with one- or two-character handles, dubbed “OGs” — explicitly bans trafficking in hacked credentials. In theory, social media companies like Twitter and Instagram ban the sale of accounts no matter how they are acquired, but the administrator said internet firms “pick and choose when to enforce that rule” and the practice was widely tolerated. ALSO READ: SoftBank quietly sells additional $2.2 bn of its stake in Alibaba Group Other researchers saw similar chatter about access to a Twitter tool for changing account settings, and they noted the earliest reported hacks Wednesday were of short Twitter handles, like @6. Only afterward were accounts for bitcoin exchanges and celebrities hacked, said Allison Nixon, chief research officer at security consultancy Unit 221B. “When you have these less professional criminal groups, you see chaotic outcomes,” said Nixon, who tracked down and preserved private chats in the Twitter hack. “One member might stumble across a powerful hack, and it spirals out of control.

That’s probably what happened here.”

About 130 accounts were targeted

Twitter disclosed late on Thursday that hackers targeted about 130 accounts during the cyberattack this week, an incident in which profiles of many prominent personalities and organisations were compromised. Hackers had accessed Twitter’s internal systems to hijack some of the platform’s top voices including US presidential candidate Joe Biden, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, former US President Barack Obama and billionaire Elon Musk and used them to solicit digital currency.

Firm had been looking for new security officer

Twitter had stepped up its search for a chief information security officer in recent weeks, two people familiar with the effort told Reuters, before the breach of high-profile accounts on Wednesday raised alarms about the platform’s security. The FBI’s San Francisco division is leading an inquiry into the Twitter hacking, it said in a statement. A day after the breach, it was not clear if the hackers were able to see private messages sent by account holders, although Twitter said it had no evidence that attackers had been able to access passwords.

First Published: Sat, July 18 2020. 01:32 IST

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