It is all over the news from the past few days on how the accounts of some of the most prominent users on Twitter were hacked by some Bitcoin enthusiasts. While we sit behind our computers and smartphones, using some form of social media daily, we usually feel that our privacy and the data we share over the internet is safe. But this incident has yet again uncovered all the loopholes a typical social media website might have with the systems meant to protect your data. And even after that, these corporations claim that they have the necessary systems in place to protect our Personal Data.
When we talk about social media, we get a picture in our mind which is usually limited to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some people say YouTube also, but it's not a social media rather a video sharing platform. Netizens enjoy spending time over social media. Sharing locations on Facebook to sharing moments on Instagram and ranting about government policies on Twitter, this has all become a daily routine for us. But in this process, we often forget how easily we are risking all our data and letting big corporations judge us based on numbers and personal choices.
I wrote a blog about how Twitter has become a major player in the social media arena in the past decade standing beside Facebook and Instagram. I wrote that blog to commemorate the 14th birth anniversary of Twitter. Little did I know, the time I was writing the blog, some people would have been very busy in breaking into, what might be one of the sophisticated computer networks in the world. Hackers broke into the systems of the employees of Twitter and tweeted from some of the most influential people of the world, saying that they are feeling generous and will double the amount which is sent to their bitcoin accounts. Individuals such as Jeff Bezos, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Joe Biden were among the few whose accounts were hacked.
Twitter instantly took action when it realized that something has gone wrong, and by action I mean it temporarily suspended the accounts of all these individuals and many others, who all had a 'Blue Tick' i.e. a verified account on Twitter. Twitter has said that it has fallen prey to a well-coordinated social engineering attack on its systems. But during this entire fiasco, the flaws in Twitter's systems were brutally revealed. And this is not the first time Twitter has got exposed to such humiliation.
Back in 2017, a disgruntled Twitter employee deactivated Donald Trump's account for a few minutes. Last year, a few of Twitter's employees were accused of spying on the government officials of Saudi Arabia. It shows how the internal systems of Twitter might be flawed and how some people might take advantage of it in the future.
The major concern here is not how some social engineers took advantage of the lackluster security at Twitter, but how this system could be influenced and used in someone's favor in the elections. The US is on the verge of a major election and social media plays a huge role in forming the opinion of the voters. Twitter is one of the social media platforms which is known for the presence of all the celebrity politicians, journalists, and a large user base. There is a major concern of another Cambridge Analytica kind of a targeted campaigning taking place, and this time with the help of Twitter's weak security.
The question is why Twitter hasn't been able to update its internal systems and make them strong against the attacks by hackers. Twitter is funded by Elliott Management and there sure goes a lot of money in funding the research and development departments there. According to sources, a rough amount of around $700 Million was spent last year for this purpose, so that they may train its people against such attacks. Twitter's competitors, Facebook, and Instagram have hugely succeeded in the quest of making their systems hard to break into. Not just that, Facebook had also exponentially surpassed Twitter in terms of ad technology and is minting money with the help of ads on its networks and on the other hand, Twitter has failed to take advantage of its massive user base and turn it into an ad market to make more profits. Sure the investors would not be very happy after all such money spent into R&D and witnessing an attack of this magnitude.
Twitter should understand the need of the hour and build a rock-solid fortress with its computer networks so that they may become impossible to break into. This will help it to retain its existing user base and it would also become attractive for new users who might want to join Twitter in the future. It would also spare Twitter some of this humiliation going forward and would make it a lucrative option for the customers to show their ads on. Elliott should also take charge of the situation now so that such incidents could be avoided in the future.
In my opinion, it was a small social engineering attack where the hackers only wanted people to deposit cryptocurrency into their accounts. Had it been something that has the potential of starting a war, the situation would have been even worse. I will write another blog on how our data which we share on various social media platforms is not invulnerable these days.