Twitter hackers duped employees with phone spear phishing scam


Hackers who briefly commandeered high-profile Twitter accounts to perpetuate a cryptocurrency scam used a phone spear phishing attack to get into to the social media platform’s internal network as well as to “specific employee credentials” to access internal support tools.

Not all of the small group of “employees that were initially targeted had permissions to use account management tools, but the attackers used their credentials to access our internal systems and gain information about our processes,” Twitter said in an update. Discerning then using the credentials of employees with access to account management tools, “attackers targeted 130 Twitter accounts, ultimately Tweeting from 45, accessing the DM inbox of 36, and downloading the Twitter Data of 7.”

To run our business, we have teams around the world that help with account support. Our teams use The proprietary tools accessed are used by Twitter teams worldwide to for support, including reviewing content for its compliance with The Twitter Rules.

The company said it has zero tolerance for credentials or tools misuse and actively monitor for it. “This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” Twitter said, calling the incident “a striking reminder of how important each person on our team is” to protecting the platform’s service.

“While Twitter states that these tools are heavily audited and restricted for specific use cases, it goes to show that technical controls can't stop everything,” said Charles Ragland, security engineer at Digital Shadows. “Human vulnerability will always be a weak spot in any risk mitigation strategy.”

The fraud community believed to be behind the scheme, OGuers (original gangsters), are known for their insider recruitment methods — which include calling employees to solicit information, spamming customer service reps with offers to make big money and even socializing with them at parties to lure them into for-profit schemes, Allison Nixon, chief research officer at Unit 221B, recently told SC Media.

The social media company said it’s “taking a hard look” at its tools, controls and processes to assess how it “can make them even more sophisticated” and less vulnerable.

“Implementing a culture of security awareness in the workplace can help reduce these risks,” said Ragland. “Train coworkers to be suspicious of emails or phone calls they aren't expecting, and have easy to follow policies in place to report incidents so that they can be appropriately investigated.”

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