In yet another incident, the Twitter account of Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, was hacked by cryptocurrency hackers. The incident occurred at midnight on Wednesday, where a series of messages were posted on the Prime Minister’s account ‘narendramodi_in.’ The Twitter account for the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund asked people to donate bitcoins to a wallet address link.
One of the posts read,
“I appeal to you all to donate generously to the PM National Relief Fund for Covid-19. Now India begins with cryptocurrency.”
This message was followed by separate links for Bitcoin and Ethereum wallets. The authorities are yet to ascertain whether the wallet address was a private account. They are also uncertain about the total amount that was siphoned off. However, some blockchains claim that the posts were taken down before any cryptocurrencies were transferred.
The Prime Minister’s Twitter account, which was started in May 2011, has around 2.5 million users. The relief fund account was set up to help those who have suffered in natural calamities such as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, etc. and other unpredicted disasters such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Donations are mostly accepted in fiat currencies and not in crypto form.
The Indian Prime Minister has gained mass popularity since being elected for two terms. This seems to be the core reason behind the hack, but it still remains to be proved. He also has a personal account with over 61 million users, which remained unaffected by the hacking threats.
The hackers also acknowledged the incident in a post that read,
“Yes, this account has been hacked by John Wick ([email protected]). We have not hacked Paytm Mall.”
Earlier on a Russian forum, a team claiming to be the said hackers had boasted about hacking into Paytm Mall. However, Paytm had denied any detection of such a hack or any security breach.
A Twitter Spokesperson responded to this incident by sending out an email statement saying, ‘We’re aware of this activity and have taken steps to secure the compromised account. We are actively investigating the situation. At this time, we are not aware of additional accounts being impacted.’
Twitter has been under the radar for security breaches since July 2020. On 15th July 2020, crypto hackers sent twitter accounts of famous celebrities such as Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Kanye West, into a frenzy. The accounts asked users to send bitcoins to an address to double their money.
Elon Musk’s Twitter post said,
“I’m feeling generous because of Covid-19. I’ll double any BTC payment sent to my BTC address for the next one hour. Good luck, and stay safe out there!”
While Bill Gates’ post read,
“Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time. I’m doubling all payments sent to my BTC address in the next 30 minutes. You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000. Only going on for 30 minutes! Enjoy!”
By the time Twitter realized what was happening, people had already transferred thousands of dollars via the links. This prompted an FBI investigation. By the end of July, three people were arrested in this context, including an alleged mastermind named ‘Graham Ivan Clark,’ who is only 17years old. Graham, however, has claimed that he is innocent and played no part in the hacking.
The hackers had managed to gain access to internal administration tools via employee accounts. They further breached into 130 celebrity accounts using the support tools. Responding to the July incident, Twitter had posted, “This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems. This was a striking reminder of how important each person on our team is in protecting our service.”
Twitter claimed that there was no relation between the July hacks and the Indian Prime Minister’s hacked account. However, the manner of hacking the account is similar. The hacker gained access to the Prime Minister’s account by compromising the accounts of people who handled the relief fund account. There is an allegation that the hackers are a team from South Korea.
The Indian Prime Minister’s account has now been restored, and the hacked tweets have been deleted. The hackers have claimed that they only did this to clear their name in the Paytm Mall incident, wherein some other hacker claiming to be John Wick stated that they had hacked into Paytm Mall and demanded a payoff of $4000 for stolen data.
Although the hacking of the Indian Prime Minister’s account seems like an isolated incident, there was a recent scam wherein bitcoin hackers used Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez’s identity to endorse an investment scheme related to Bitcoins. Colombia’s vulnerable masses, especially those affected by Covid-19, were the unfortunate targets of this attack.
Indian courts lifted the ban on cryptocurrency in March this year, creating a surge in individuals dealing in the digital market. However, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and a few ministers are striving to restore the ban, as per some sources.
Cryptocurrencies are not under any central authority. Therefore, the most significant problem with cryptocurrency is tracking it. Besides, the hackers can empty wallets within seconds and leave no trace of the digital currency. With the increasing value and demand of cryptocurrency, hackers have been looking for newer avenues to pocket bitcoins in the quickest ways possible. The July Twitter incident was definitely an eye-opener, prompting Twitter to strengthen its security system.
It has become vital for users and organizations dealing in cryptocurrency to stay vigilant and not fall for such scams. 2-step identification codes, strong passwords, and a secure digital wallet are few steps users can take to ensure their cryptocurrency stays protected.
Organizations need to realize that a breach in security may not only lead to a loss in cryptocurrency but also essential data. The hacker can also use such accounts and those of famous people to spread misinformation and fear for more massive propaganda. Therefore, every organization and individual need to tighten their security and keep their accounts safe.