Google's official G Suite Twitter account was hacked on Tuesday, having started promoting a Bitcoin scam. "Google is giving 10 000 Bitcoin (BTC) to all community," the poorly worded tweet read, falsely claiming G Suite now also supports making payments with the world's most popular cryptocurrency. The tweet also contained a link to a scam masked as a giveaway, claiming anyone who sends between 0.1 and 2 Bitcoin will receive somewhere in the range of one and 20 Bitcoin back.
The tweet went out to all 822,000 followers of the G Suite Twitter profile, though it's presently unclear how many of them actually saw it and possibly fell victim to the scam. Google noticed the issue and removed the tweet in question within approximately fifteen minutes, one Ernst Mulders told TNW. Earlier today, Google said it's investigating the incident in collaboration with Twitter, confirming the original tweet was not only unauthorized but also promoted. It's unclear how much money the scammers managed to invest in promoting the tweet before the tech giant took it down. While Google representatives use the G Suite Twitter account to respond to user-reported issues on a daily basis, the profile ceased all activity following the Tuesday incident.
Background: This Tuesday, retail juggernaut Target fell victim to a similar attack, tweeting out a link to a Bitcoin giveaway scam. The firm wasn't as quick to respond to the debacle as Google, with that particular tweet staying live for some half an hour, users report. Earlier this week, Twitter vowed to conduct a coordinated crackdown on breaches of its platform associated with cryptocurrency scams, with the announcement being made mere minutes prior to the G Suite account hack. The San Francisco, California-based microblogging platform is also working with Target, though it's currently unclear whether it suspects the perpetrators to be the same in both cases. Several politicians and other public figures had their Twitter accounts breached in a similar manner, with their followers consequently being greeted by tweets promoting fake Bitcoin giveaways. Elon Musk was among the people whose accounts were compromised as part of the malicious efforts which also affected the Twitter profiles of the European filmmaking juggernaut Pathé and Indian national disaster agency NDMA.
As of today, 10,000 Bitcoins that the attackers falsely claim they're giving away are worth some $60 million. All of the misleading tweets are accompanied by hundreds of responses from supposed participants claiming they already received their rewards. The accounts themselves are believed to be bots and weren't given a chance to take over the response section to the now-removed G Suite tweet from yesterday, presumably because Google managed to pull it in a matter of minutes.
Account hijacking is not a new issue on Twitter but is one that became more pronounced in recent weeks, especially with the surge of cryptocurrency scams that are now primarily being promoted using such means. The ordeal is naturally attracting negative publicity to Twitter but the actual mechanics of the attacks remain unclear. What's equally unclear is whether Twitter is any closer to preventing such hacks in the future than it was several days back, before the latest influx of the attacks. The nature of contemporary cryptocurrency makes scams such as the ones promoted by the newly emerged Twitter hackers irreversible – once users send their Bitcoins to the attackers, that money is gone forever.
Similar scams have been promoted throughout the World Wide Web for years now, ever since cryptocurrencies took off, though usually through obscure websites built for the sole purpose of online fraud. However, with over 326 million monthly active users as of the third quarter of the year, Twitter represents a large pool of potential victims malevolent individuals could take advantage of, especially if they're promoting their scams under the guise of verified, credible accounts. While Facebook is a significantly larger social media network with close to five times as many users, cryptocurrency scams seemingly aren't as prominent on that platform, though the fact that any kind of crypto advertising has been banned from Facebook for a significant portion of this year may be related to that.
Twitter has a much clearer stance on cryptocurrencies as its founder and Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey also established Square, a currency exchange platform that started accepting Bitcoin earlier this year. Dorsey is one of the most famous crypto advocates and is understood to be against any kind of ban on associated advertising, with the industry veteran recently even boldly proclaiming Bitcoin will replace all of the world's currencies within the next ten years. While he's still successfully balancing his two jobs, that split is still concerning some analysts and investors. Twitter itself is also exploring the possibility of implementing blockchain technologies into its platform, according to recent reports.
Google also had a ban on cryptocurrency advertising in place until late September and has recently changed its terms of service from Android developers to prevent them from using the Play Store in order to distribute and promote their mining apps. Numerous insiders previously claimed the company is also looking into the blockchain space but the influx of illegitimate initiatives such as shady initial coin offerings and scams such as the newly reported one demonstrate that the industry is still in its infancy.
Impact: Twitter's stock is currently unaffected by the ordeal and is still trading at above $33 as of Wednesday noon PST, which is in line with its late October value which is when the company published its quarter-three financial report. However, with the number of hacking attacks aimed at promoting cryptocurrency scams on Twitter rising, the microblogging platform may soon find itself in a world of hurt and negativity less it manages to crack down on those incidents in a swift manner. The cryptocurrency world itself also isn't benefitting from these scammers that are just the latest malevolent individuals seeking to take advantage of people's naivety and the inherently anonymous nature of blockchain, thus attracting bad publicity to the technology as a whole. Regardless, the blockchain revolution isn't likely to stop as an increasing number of industries continue to embrace digital ledgers across a variety of use cases.