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In Market: Me and Elon Musk: Birds Tweeting of a feather

🕐 6 min read

There was a big worldwide computer hack on Wednesday, July 15. I’m sure you heard about it. Social media, by its very nature, can’t keep quiet about stuff like that. Misfortune means eyeballs, after all. “A bad day for you is a good day for me,” as a journalist colleague used to say. He was half-joking. Maybe.

A breach in Twitter’s security allowed hackers to break into the accounts of leaders and technology moguls in one of the worst attacks in recent years. The ruse included bogus tweets from former President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked. The attackers sent out tweets from the accounts of the public figures, offering to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous bitcoin address.

Oh yeah, there was another one – one of my social media platforms was hacked. Yep, me and Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos – we’re just four peas in a pod. Their pods just happen to be slightly more upscale than mine.

My hack was a pretty familiar one. A “friend” request went out to people that I was already “friends” with, including a photo from my page. A few connections, in a weak moment, clicked on the request and received a message from some fourth or fifth world country where life is cheap but they do have internet cafes.

My hackers were smart enough not to ask a journalist’s friends for loads of bitcoin, but it was some sort of scam where they could weasel their way into friends’ accounts and probably send out more fake “friend” requests and on and on and on. This seems like an awful lot of work. Go rob a kid of her ice cream money or give up Starbucks for a day; surely that’s easier money. Makes you sort of long for the days of the “honest” bank robber who walks in and demands money from a teller.

After I learned of the hack, I immediately notified the social media company and they went into a flurry of action. Or maybe I should say they went into a flurry of “inaction.” Basically, they sent me to a web page that said I should change my password. Whoopee, what technical geniuses they are. No wonder we surrender all individual rights to them. As a social media company, they promise connections with people the world over, but if you want to connect with them, well that’s a different story. They want their Wizard to stay cloaked in mystery. And to keep their costs as low as those of the poor intern monitoring a help desk.

Or maybe they just couldn’t be bothered. Too busy tinkering with algorithms designed to squeeze another dollar from their system. Meanwhile, they sell your personal stats to any gangster around the world sitting in an internet café and getting ready to hack you.

So, I changed my password, which I won’t remember until the next time I get hacked. It gave me little sense of satisfaction.

Yeah, this so-called modern world has some serious bs to deal with. I remember the early days of the personal computer industry when people thought this new technology was going to change the world – all for the better. And then when the world was connected, it was going to be even better. We would have more understanding among people of different races, creeds and colors as the lines of communication would remain open. How did we fall for that Tower of Babel bs once again?

Promises, promises. The automobile was going to take us everywhere, too, except for the fact we’re all stuck in traffic.

Yeah, promises. Maybe you saw the story about people who believe that high-end furniture seller Wayfair is some kind of front for child sex trafficking. Back when I was a kid, you heard that kind of stuff on off days on talk radio and it didn’t get much further than that. Now? People treat that kind of information like it is some deep, dark secret that they tell everyone about. QAnon and all that. We’ve gotten more paranoid, maybe because we know these companies know so much about us. Or that we’ll say something that gets us canceled.

As to that other hack on July 15, the FBI said it is investigating and said the high-profile accounts “appear to have been compromised in order to perpetuate cryptocurrency fraud.”

Twitter said the hackers used “social engineering” to target some of the company’s employees and then gained access to the accounts. The term refers to taking advantage of human nature via phishing attacks, tricking people into downloading malicious software or compromising them by offering something in return for information. Twitter did not say how its employees were compromised.

Allison Nixon, chief research officer at cybersecurity firm 221B, said in an email that the people behind the attack appear to have come from the “OG” community, a group interested in original, short Twitter handles – @a, @b or @c, for instance.

“Based upon what we have seen, the motivation for the most recent Twitter attack is similar to previous incidents we have observed in the OG community – a combination of financial incentive, technical bragging rights, challenge, and disruption,” Nixon wrote. “The OG community is not known to be tied to any nation state. Rather they are a disorganized crime community with a basic skillset and are a loosely organized group of serial fraudsters.”

Yeah, in other words it sounds like the technology equivalent of short-sheeting someone’s bed. They were in it for the yucks.

Reacting to the breach, Twitter swiftly deleted the tweets and locked down the accounts to investigate. In the process it prevented verified users from sending out tweets for several hours. Bob Sturm of KTCK The Ticket radio station in Dallas is a big verified user of Twitter. The lockdown kept us from getting the latest sports news from Bob’s big sports brain.

As for me, I posted a note on my site, telling my friends not to pay attention to the fake friend request. I also asked my friends to raise a glass of wine, whiskey or Dr Pepper and toast our friendship virtually with a “salud!,” which is Spanish for “to your health!”

As to the people who hacked me? I’m comforted by the fact that I live in a place with great Mexican food and they don’t. And I’m toasting them, too, with words that are the complete and total opposite of “salud!”

This report contains information from the Associated Press.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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