- Several massive Twitter accounts were hacked Wednesday by bitcoin scammers asking for money, claiming they would return senders double the amount in an effort to provide financial relief during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Compromised accounts included those of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kim Kardashian West, Kayne West, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk.
- Hackers reportedly gained access to an internal tool by bribing a Twitter employee with money. They were then able to change emails associated with the accounts and reset passwords.
- The hack has prompted many to ask how general privacy and even United States national security could potentially be affected, with Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) asking Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to provide more information about the attack.
- Thursday, the FBI and the New York State Department of Financial Services both opened investigations into the hack.
Bitcoin Hackers Gain Control of Huge Accounts
Twitter suffered its largest hack ever on Wednesday, which some fear could have far-reaching national security implications.
In fact, on Thursday, the FBI opened an investigation into the hack. The same day, at the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Department of Financial Services launched its own investigation.
“The Twitter hack and widespread takeover of verified Twitter accounts is deeply troubling and raises concerns about the cybersecurity of our communications systems, which are critical as we approach the upcoming presidential election,” Cuomo said.
The list compromised accounts include those of Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Apple, and Uber, It even includes those of former President Barack Obama and presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Most of those accounts, which were all hacked near-simultaneously, tweeted some variation of the same message: “I am giving back to my community due to Covid-19! All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled. If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000! Only doing this for the next 30 minutes! Enjoy.”
Shorter messages were posted on accounts like Kardashian-West’s.
Though it’s highly unlikely that such wealthy and high profile figures would directly ask their followers for money in this way, the requests were coming from their personal, verified accounts (AKA, accounts with that coveted, blue checkmark next to their names). Thus, many fell for the scam, and hackers are estimated to have stolen as much as $120,000 as part of the scheme.
As the hack was happening and more verified accounts were compromised, Twitter became so worried and concerned that it did something unprecedented: temporarily disabling all verified accounts from directly tweeting.
While that prevented hackers from continuing to post tweets asking for money, it also had some unintended consequences. For example, the National Weather Service in Lincoln, Illinois was tweeting about a severe thunderstorm at the time, however, the verified account soon found itself unable to post updates. That then forced it to resort to retweeting its bot account, which is not verified.
How Did the Hack Happen?
If reports about how hackers breached Twitter’s security system are true, that exposes massive security flaws at the company.
According to Motherboard, which is owned by Vice Media, hackers convinced a Twitter employee to help them hijack the targeted accounts. In fact, according to leaked screenshots and two anonymous sources who took over those accounts, Motherboard alleges that the employee in question was bribed into—at least indirectly—handing over an internal tool that allowed them to hack into the accounts.
“We used a rep that literally done all the work for us,” one of the sources told Motherboard.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, Twitter Support said, “We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”
According to a Twitter spokesperson who spoke to Motherboard, the company is also investigating whether that employee hijacked the accounts themselves or if they gave hackers access to the tools.
As to how those hackers actually gained access to the accounts, Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Surrey, told Business Insider, “It looks like the way this was done was by using the tools inside Twitter to reset contact details and then trigger password resets.”
Essentially, those hackers likely gained access to the internal, high level tools then used them to change the email addresses associated with those accounts. From there, the hackers would have sent password reset requests, granting them full access to the accounts.
Such a strategy is difficult to counter (How many times have you reset your own password just because you couldn’t remember it?).
Twitter could always get rid of the internal tool that allows employees to reset passwords, but as Woodward noted to Business Insider, if the company did that, people might end up getting locked out of their accounts forever.
He suggested having Twitter require more than one employee to sign off on the password reset function.
“If you allow such tools to exist (and it’s difficult to see how you’d not) then the only way to stop them being misused by an individual is to have a process in place to make sure you need two people internally to make it function,” he said.
What Else Did Those Hackers See While in the Accounts?
The idea that hackers could make their way into the account of a former president or that of a major presidential candidate is scary in itself, but it also raises several key questions: What else did they see? What information did they manage to access?
For example, Twitter does not encrypt private messages. Anyone who logs into an account can see the messages sent to and from that account. That’s not to suggest Obama or Biden have something to hide, but such a fact is a gaping privacy concern.
As Woodward noted, even for regular users, there’s currently no way to defend themselves against this type of attack.
But it’s not just privacy. The people behind the accounts that were hacked have massive influence and sway. While his account did not appear to be hacked in this attack, many have raised concern about what kind of power hackers could exert if they were able to comandeer President Donald Trump’s Twitter account.
On top of being the leader of the country, Trump is frequently known to attack political enemies—including foreign leaders. Many, including Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), fear the national security implications Trump’s Twitter account could pose in the wrong hands.
“I am concerned that this event may represent not merely a coordinated set of separate hacking incidents but rather a successful attack on the security of Twitter itself,” Hawley said in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as the attack was unfolding.
“As you know, millions of your users rely on your service not just to tweet publicly but also to communicate privately through your direct message service. A successful attack on your system’s servers represents a threat to all of your users’ privacy and data security.”
Hawley asked Dorsey to provide detailed information on the attack, including information regarding Trump’s account.
“Did this attack threaten the security of the President’s own Twitter account?” Hawley asked in a series of questions.
So far, it is unknown how or if Dorsey has responded to Hawley, though Dorsey did make a personal statement on Wednesday.
“Tough day for us at Twitter,” Dorsey said. “We all feel terrible this happened. We’re diagnosing and will share everything we can when we have a more complete understanding of exactly what happened. [Love] to our teammates working hard to make this right.”
This isn’t the first time the accounts for high profile names have been hacked on Twitter. In fact, even Dorsey’s account was hacked last year. That same hack also targeted other massive online personalities like James Charles and Shane Dawson were also hacked last year.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Axios) (The Verge)
Jake Paul Launches Anti-Bullying Charity
The charity, called Boxing Bullies, aims to use the sport to give kids confidence and courage.
Jake Paul Launches Boxing Bullies Foundation
YouTuber Jake Paul — best known as the platform’s boxer, wreckless partier, and general troublemaker — has seemingly launched a non-profit to combat bullying.
The charity is called Boxing Bullies. According to a mission statement posted on Instagram, it aims to “instill self confidence, leadership, and courage within the youth through the sport of boxing while using our platform, voice, and social media to fight back against bullying.”
If the notion of a Paul-founded anti-bullying charity called “Boxing Bullies” was not already begging to be compared to former First Lady Melania Trump’s “Best Best” initiative, maybe the group’s “Boxing Bullies Commandments” will help connect the dots. Those commandments use an acronym for the word “BOX” to spell out the charity’s golden rules.
“Be kind to everyone; Only defend, never initiate; X-out bullying.”
Paul Hopes To “Inspire” Kids To Stand Up For Themselves
Paul first said he was launching Boxing Bullies during a July 13 interview following a press conference for his upcoming fight against Tyron Woodley.
“I know who I am at the end of the day, which is a good person,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to change this sport, bring more eyeballs. I’m trying to support other fighters, increase fighter pay. I’m starting my charity, I’m launching that in 12 days here called Boxing Bullies and we’re helping to fight against cyberbullying.”
It has not been quite 12 days since the interview, so it’s likely that more information about the organization will be coming soon. Currently, the group has been the most active on Instagram, where it boasts a following of just around 1,200 followers. It has posted once to Twitter, where it has 32 followers; and has a TikTok account that has yet to publish any content. It also has a website, though there is not too much on it as of yet.
On its Instagram, one post introducing Paul as the founder claims the rowdy YouTuber started this charity because he has been on the receiving end of bullying.
“Having been a victim of bullying himself, Jake experienced firsthand the impact it has on a person’s life,” the post says. “Jake believes that this is a prevailing issue in society that isn’t talked about enough. Boxing gave Jake the confidence to not care about what others think and he wants to share the sport and the welfare it‘s had on him with as many kids as possible.”
It adds that he hopes his group can“inspire the next generation of kids to be leaders, be athletes, and to fight back against bullying.”
Paul Previously Accused of Being a Bully
While fighting against bullying is a noble cause, it is an ironic project for Paul to start, as he has faced no shortage of bullying accusations. While Paul previously sang about “stopping kids from getting bullied” in the lunchroom, some have alleged he himself was actually a classic high school bully who threw kids’ backpacks into garbage cans.
This behavior allegedly continued into his adulthood, as a New York Times report from earlier this year claimed he ran his Team 10 house with a culture of toxicity and bullying. Among other things, sources said he involved others in violent pranks, pressured people into doing dangerous stunts, and destroyed peoples’ personal property to make content.
See what others are saying: (Dexerto)
Director Defends Recreating Anthony Bourdain’s Voice With AI in New Documentary
The film’s director claims he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent, but on Thursday, Bourdain’s widow publicly denied ever giving that permission.
Bourdain’s Voice Recreated
“You are successful, and I am successful, and I’m wondering: Are you happy?” Anthony Bourdain says in a voiceover featured in “Roadrunnner,” a newly released documentary about the late chef — except Bourdain never actually said those words aloud.
Instead, it’s one of three lines in the film, which features frequent voiceovers from Bourdain, that were created through the use of artificial intelligence technology.
That said, the words are Bourdain’s own. In fact, they come from an email Bourdain reportedly wrote to a friend prior to his 2018 suicide. Nonetheless, many have now questioned whether recreating Bourdain’s voice was ethical, especially since documentaries are meant to reflect reality.
Director Defends Use of AI Voice
The film’s director, Academy Award winner Morgan Neville, has defended his use of the synthetic voice, telling Variety that he received permission from Bourdain’s estate and literary agent before inserting the lines into the film.
“There were a few sentences that Tony wrote that he never spoke aloud,” Neville said. “It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to make Tony’s words come alive.”
Bourdain’s widow — Ottavia Bourdain, who is the executor of his estate — later denied Neville’s claim on Twitter, saying, “I certainly was NOT the one who said Tony would have been cool with that.”
In another interview with GQ, Neville described the process, saying the film’s creators “fed more than ten hours of Tony’s voice into an AI model.”
“The bigger the quantity, the better the result,” he added. “We worked with four companies before settling on the best.”
“If you watch the film,” Neville told The New Yorker, “you probably don’t know what the other lines are that were spoken by the AI, and you’re not going to know. We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later.”
The Ethics Debate Isn’t Being Tabled
But many want to have that discussion now.
Boston-based film critic Sean Burns, who gave the film a rare negative review, later criticized it again for its unannounced use of AI, saying he wasn’t aware that Bourdain’s voice had been recreated until after he watched the documentary.
Meanwhile, The New Yorker’s Helen Rosner wrote that the “seamlessness of the effect is eerie.”
“If it had been a human voice double I think the reaction would be “huh, ok,” but there’s something truly unsettling about the idea of it coming from a computer,” Rosner later tweeted.
Online, many others have criticized the film’s use of AI, with some labeling it as a “deepfake.”
Others have offered more mixed criticism, saying that while the documentary highlights the need for posthumous AI use to be disclosed, it should not be ruled out altogether.
“In a world where the living could consent to using AI to reproduce their voices posthumously, and where people were made aware that such a technology was being used, up front and in advance, one could envision that this kind of application might serve useful documentary purposes,” David Leslie, ethics lead at the Alan Turing Institute, told the BBC.
Celebrities Recreated After Death
The posthumous use of celebrity likeness in media is not a new debate. In 2012, a hologram of Tupac took the stage 15 years after his death. In 2014, the Billboard Music Awards brought a hologram of Michael Jackson onstage five years after his death. Meanwhile, the Star Wars franchise digitally recreated actor Peter Cushing in 2016’s “Rogue One,” and unused footage of actress Carrie Fisher was later translated into “The Rise of Skywalker,” though a digital version of Fisher was never used.
In recent years, it has become almost standard for filmmakers to say that they will not create digital versions of characters whose actors die unexpectedly. For example, several months after Chadwick Boseman’s death last year, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” executive producer Victoria Alonso confirmed Boseman would not be digitally recreated for his iconic role as King T’Challa.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (Yahoo! News) (Variety)
Doctors Want You to Know: Whatever You Do, Don’t Stick Garlic up Your Nose to Try and Relieve Congestion
They warn the new TikTok trend could cause even worse problems, such as irritation and swelling.
TikTok Garlic Nose Trend
In a viral trend that feels eerily similar to the Nutmeg Challenge, doctors are now warning people against participating in a TikTok trend that has users shoving whole cloves of garlic up their noses for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
In the videos, creators claim that garlic can relieve sinus congestion, and once they pull the cloves out of their nostrils, an excessive amount of snot comes flowing out of their noses.
“Since tik tok took it down the first time. THIS IS NOT DANGEROUS. The garlic cleans out your sinuses,” TikTok user hwannah5 said in a June 25 post.
Doctors are now warning the opposite, saying that there’s no medical proof garlic acts as a decongestant.
As Dr. Richard Wender of the University of Pennsylvania told Insider, “Evidence is important, and it would be wrong to say that we’ve done extensive research about garlic in noses.”
“But in general, garlic itself and the chemicals of garlic don’t interact much with human tissue,” he added.
Wender went on to explain that stuffing one’s nose with foreign objects can actually cause irritation and swelling, rather than relief.
“Yes, it’s true that garlic has some antibacterial properties, which means it may be useful to treat a variety of common ailments,” Dr. Deborah Lee from Dr. Fox Online Pharmacy told Delish. “In one study, those who took garlic supplements for three months had less colds than those who did not. But this is not the same as actively treating a stuffy nose or blocked sinuses. Garlic is not a decongestant, and in fact, may just irritate the lining of the nose and airways and make symptoms worse.”
As far as what’s causing streams of snot to pour out of people’s noses after inserting their garlic plugs, Wender said that may be occurring because the nose produces mucus when irritated. On top of that, the cloves can also block already-existing mucus from flowing.
Instead, doctors recommend using already-known solutions if you’re feeling congested, such as vapor rubs, antihistamines, over-the-counter saline sprays, and neti pots.
TikTok user hwannah5 later responded to a doctor’s explanation that the clove blocks create rather than clear mucus, noting that others shouldn’t repeatedly try the blocks. Doctors contend that the trend should not be done at all.