Elon Musk bitcoin scam ramps up with spate of hacked Twitter accounts

6 Nov 2018

Illustration of Elon Musk smoking weed. Image: popusska.gmail.com/Depositphotos

The posts to Elon Musk’s own Twitter account have made the headlines of late, and hackers are now trying to use his image to scam people.

As of late, it might not be so strange to see Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk saying something a bit odd on Twitter.

In one case, he even put one of his businesses in the firing line of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. And, just a few weeks ago, he found himself temporarily silenced on the platform for tweeting, “Wanna buy some bitcoin?”, with Twitter believing his account to have been hacked.

As it turned out, this wasn’t the case. But now, according to BBC News, hackers have unleashed a bitcoin scam by taking over Twitter accounts and, ironically, not Musk’s own account.

British retailer Matalan, film distributor Pathé UK and US publisher Pantheon Books were just some of the accounts taken over by hackers. Using the breached accounts’ blue ticks against them, the hackers then changed their Twitter name to Elon Musk and replaced the profile image with that of the South African billionaire. However, the remaining handle would indicate that it was not Elon Musk.

They then took advantage of the promoted tweets function that allows account holders to pay for tweets to appear prominently in people’s Twitter feeds. The scam promised that if a person were willing to give a small amount of bitcoin, they would be eligible to receive a significantly larger sum.

In one of the scam posts, the hacker wrote: “I’m giving 10,000 Bitcoic [sic] (BTC) to all community! I left the post of director of Tesla, thank you all for your suppoot [sic]!”

Adding further layers to the scam, a number of other hacked verified accounts falsely backed up the claim that they had received bitcoin from Musk.

A spokesperson for Twitter said that while it “doesn’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons”, it has “substantially improved how we tackle cryptocurrency scams on the platform”.

“In recent weeks, user impressions have fallen by a multiple of 10 as we continue to invest in more proactive tools to detect spammy and malicious activity,” it added.

Illustration of Elon Musk smoking weed. Image: popusska.gmail.com/Depositphotos

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic