Jul 17, 2020 - Technology

Report: Twitter hackers were amateurs, not state-backed

A photo illustration of a padlock in silhouette held in front of a large Twitter logo.

Photo illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The hackers who compromised high-profile Twitter accounts this week were a "group of young people" who connected over an interest in "owning early or unusual screen names," the New York Times reported Friday.

Why it matters: That the hackers weren't state-backed or tied to a sophisticated criminal enterprise will likely come as a relief to the public figures — among them Elon Musk, Barack Obama and Bill Gates — who were targeted. But the scheme sowed chaos and uncertainty all the same.

Details: The Times interviewed four people claiming responsibility for the hack and verified their accounts through logs of conversations held while the attack took shape, as well as bitcoin transactions only the hackers could have performed.

  • The hackers used their access to high-profile accounts to promote a scam soliciting bitcoin.
  • The characterization of the attackers as a group of young, amateur hackers who have a track record of targeting accounts with short, catchy handles like @y and @6 squares with intel that has circulated in hacking and cybersecurity circles since Wednesday's scam.
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