But while the scope of the incident was massive in its own right — impacting accounts belonging to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West and Warren Buffett — it could merely be the tip of a very large iceberg with vast security implications. Cybersecurity experts and policymakers now worry that the bitcoin scam may mask a much more troubling data breach involving the personal communications of the world’s most powerful people.
The FBI said Thursday it is now investigating the incident. Later on Thursday, Twitter disclosed that it was working with users who had been affected by the breach and “continuing to assess whether non-public data related to these accounts were compromised.”
“Based on what we know right now, we believe approximately 130 accounts were targeted by the attackers in some way as part of the incident,” the company added. “For a small subset of these accounts, the attackers were able to gain control of the accounts and then send tweets from those accounts.”
The attack is a stark reminder, in the middle of a pivotal election year, about the power of social media in general, and Twitter (TWTR) in particular, to destabilize America and the world. Despite it having a significantly smaller user base than rivals like Facebook (FB), Twitter has a disproportionately large influence on the media, investors and policymakers. It’s where news breaks, CEOs make business announcements and US presidents sometimes declare new policies. And Wednesday’s attacks showed how much trust the public places in Twitter’s hands, and how brittle its systems can be.