You can’t say you didn’t see it coming.
Whatever Twitter eventually comes to say about the events of July 15th, 2020.
When it suffered the most catastrophic security breach in company history, it must be said that the events were set in motion years ago.
Beginning in the spring of 2018, scammers began to impersonate noted cryptocurrency enthusiast Elon Musk.
They would use his profile photo, select a user name similar to his, and tweet out an offer that was effective despite being too good to be true: send him a little cryptocurrency, and he’ll send you a lot back.
Sometimes the scammer would reply to a connected, verified account — Musk-owned Space X, for example — giving it additional legitimacy.
Scammers would also amplify the fake tweet via bot networks, for the same purpose.
The events of 2018 showed us three things.
One, at least some people fell for the scam, every single time — certainly enough to incentivize further attempts.
Two, Twitter was slow to respond to the threat.
Which persisted well beyond the company’s initial comments that it was taking the issue seriously.
And three, the demand from scammers coupled with Twitter’s initial measures to fight back set up a cat-and-mouse game that incentivized bad actors to take more drastic measures to wreak havoc.
Among the hacked accounts were President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, the Apple and Uber corporate accounts, and pop star Kanye West.
But they came later.
The first prominent individual account to be compromised? Elon Musk, of course.
Within the first hours of the attack, people were duped into sending more than $118,000 to the hackers.
It also seems possible that a great number of sensitive direct messages could have been accessed by the attackers. Of even greater concern, though, is the speed and scale at which the attack unfolded — and the national security concerns it raises, which are profound.
Twitter will likely spend the next several days investigating how this incident took place.
A criminal investigation seems likely, during which the company may not be able to fully describe Wednesday’s events to our satisfaction.
But it is vital that as soon as possible, Twitter share as much about what happened today as it can.
Jjust as importantly, what it will do to ensure that it never happens again.
After Wednesday’s catastrophe, it hardly seems like hyperbole to suggest that our world could hang in the balance.