It was an ultra-busy week in tech, not without its controversies (and security breaches!). But whatever else might have happened, it pays (literally) to keep one thing in mind…
No, Elon Musk Doesn’t Want to Give You Bitcoin
And yet, if you were lurking on Twitter on the afternoon of July 15, you would have seen the official Twitter feeds of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, and other celebrities all broadcasting the same message: They wanted you to send them some Bitcoin. In exchange, they’d give you even more Bitcoin back.
Those Tweets were a massive scam, of course, but it ended up unleashing chaos within Twitter, which attempted to stop the hack by disabling verified accounts (i.e., the ones with the blue check-marks, usually given to notable and famous folks) from Tweeting.
By 9 P.M. EST, Twitter seemed to have its security situation under control. “Tough day for us at Twitter. 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,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote.
According to Motherboard, “exactly what happened” was attackers hijacking an internal Twitter tool that allowed them to Tweet from those famous folks’ accounts without having to wrestle with 2FA or other security measures. Twitter later confirmed that a “coordinated social engineering attack” gave the attackers access to “internal systems and tools.”
Some folks evidently fell for the scam, sending $118,000 to the attackers’ Bitcoin wallet; that amount was subsequently sent to other wallets. Engadget has a fascinating piece on how the attackers could then launder their ill-gotten Bitcoin gains for other currencies. But if anything, that was a pretty poor cash haul, considering what the attackers could have done—imagine sending a Tweet from the account of Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos that makes the stock market yo-yo, and then making some financial plays that take advantage of that.
Considering how world leaders increasingly rely on Twitter to announce policy, the attackers could have also done something much more serious. Imagine someone breaking into Donald Trump’s account, for instance, and announcing that the bombing of North Korea begins in five minutes. Hopefully Twitter’s cybersecurity experts are hardening the system even more.
TikTok Ban Coming
Speaking of the White House, the executive branch might end up banning popular social-media app TikTok in coming weeks, according to reports. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, which presumably makes it a target amidst rising tensions between the U.S. and China over a variety of issues, including the two countries’ trade war and COVID-19.
“There are a number of administration officials who are looking at the national security risk as it relates to TikTok, WeChat and other apps that have the potential for national security exposure, specifically as it relates to the gathering of information on American citizens by a foreign adversary,” White House chief of staff chief of staff Mark Meadows told the media July 15. “I don’t think there’s any self-imposed deadline for action, but I think we are looking at weeks, not months.”
TikTok has denied that it’s a security risk, of course, but the situation is a reminder that even popular apps and services are sometimes subject to the whims of governments. Will TikTok survive?
Is Google Facing an Anti-Trust Case?
California’s attorney general is reportedly launching an anti-trust probe into Google. That’s potentially very bad news for the search-engine giant, which is already trying swat back an anti-trust investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
While the federal investigation is supposedly looking into Google’s tactics with regard to advertising technology, it’s unclear what aspect of Google’s business California wants to probe. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said he’s open to testifying before a House Judiciary panel, where he could join Apple CEO Tim Cook and other executives as Congress explores the tech industry’s anti-trust practices.
Google has been investigated for anti-trust practices in the past, and no doubt its lawyers have a strategy for dealing with such situations. But with ad revenue falling due to COVID-19, and Google trying to manage a huge remote workforce, a high-intensity investigation into its practices couldn’t be coming at a worse time.
Have a great weekend, everyone! Remember to keep washing those hands!