September 27, 2020

Hackers saw 36 Twitter accounts’ private messages

Twitter padlock Image copyright Getty Images

Twitter has revealed that hackers viewed private direct messages (DMs) from 36 of the accounts involved in last week’s hack.

It has not disclosed who they belonged to beyond saying one was owned by an elected official in the Netherlands.

Twitter added that it does not believe any other former or current politicians had their DMs accessed.

It is not clear how many of the accounts overlap with the 45 that tweeted a Bitcoin scam.

Although Twitter has not named the Dutch official affected, local reports have indicated it is likely the far-right politician Geert Wilders.

Last week, his profile image was replaced with that of a cartoon of a black man, and his account’s background image was changed to that of the Moroccan flag.

Calls to testify

On 16 July, the accounts of several high profile business leaders, celebrities and politicians accounts posted a bogus get-rich-quick scheme, including:

  • Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos
  • Tesla’s chief Elon Musk
  • the rapper Kanye West
  • the reality-TV star Kim Kardashian West
  • former US President Barack Obama
  • the Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden

It is believed victims sent about $120,000 (£93,600) in Bitcoin to the perpetrators, and the sum would have been larger if a crypto-currency exchange had not blocked further transfers.

Twitter has said a total of 130 accounts were targeted in the attack, which exposed personal information including email addresses and telephone numbers.

It previously revealed that eight non-verified accounts had all of their Twitter data downloaded, including DMs. The firm has not said if any of these coincide with the ones whose DM inboxes were looked at.

The social network may reveal more about the incident when it posts its latest financial results before the bell this Thursday.

The US Senate Commerce Committee has also demanded Twitter brief it about the wider incident by 23 July.

The senior Republican on Congress’s Judiciary committee has also called on its chair to ask Twitter’s chief executive Jack Dorsey to attend a separate hearing on Monday, at which Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon’s chief executives are already scheduled to give testimony.

However, political watchers say it is unlikely that a formal invitation will be made as the focus of that event is anti-competitive behaviour, and Twitter is a much smaller company than the others.