Advance Notice: Briefs

Peters was locked out of Twitter account for more than 24 hours amid hack

By: - July 17, 2020 6:09 pm
Sen. Gary Peters

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters at Mott Community College | Derek Robertson

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) was locked out of his Twitter campaign account after a number of prominent accounts were compromised on Wednesday. The account is now back up.

His Republican opponent, John James, was not locked out of his account and has been tweeting. 

John James at President Donald Trump’s Battle Creek rally, Dec. 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Some of the biggest Twitter accounts were compromised on Wednesday – including former President Barack Obama, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Kanye West, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and others. They all tweeted similar messages asking followers to send them Bitcoin with the promise of sending back double the amount.

The accounts were compromised after the attackers gained access to an internal tool that allows Twitter employees to change the email address associated with an account.

The hackers received more than $100,000 in Bitcoin before the tweets were deleted. But the attack could yet prove to be even more consequential if the attackers accessed direct messages while in control of the accounts.

Security experts warn that a hack of this magnitude could have been used to cause havoc in the stock market – or even start geopolitical conflict – rather than simply to collect Bitcoin.

The tweets from the compromised accounts were quickly deleted, but similar tweets were sent again from some of the same accounts. To regain control, Twitter temporarily prevented any verified accounts from tweeting.

Accounts that were compromised were locked down longer, as Twitter said they would only return access to the owners when they were certain they could do so securely.

Several of the accounts – including those of Biden and Obama – have since been returned to their owners.

Peters and at least 11 other Democratic U.S. Senate candidates were locked out of their accounts as of Friday morning, per the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The Peters campaign could not immediately be reached for comment on the story.

It was not immediately clear why the candidates’ accounts were locked, although Twitter said any account that had attempted to reset its password within the last month was also locked for a longer amount of time.

Being locked out doesn’t necessarily mean that an account was compromised, Twitter said.

Several of the candidates had access to their accounts restored on Friday afternoon after more than 24 hours of not being able to tweet.

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a regular contributor to the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.