Twitter stepped up search to complete top security job before hacking

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) had intensified its search for an information security chief in recent weeks, two people familiar with the effort told Reuters, before the high-profile account breach on Wednesday raised alarm about the platform’s security.

The FBI’s San Francisco division is leading an investigation into Twitter’s hacking, it said in a statement, as more Washington lawmakers asked for an account of how it happened.

The law enforcement agency said the hackers committed crypto fraud after taking control of the Twitter accounts of celebrities and political figures such as Joe Biden, Kim Kardashian, Barack Obama and Elon Musk.

A day after the breach, it was unclear if the hackers were able to see the private messages sent by the account holders, although Twitter said it had no evidence that the attackers had been able to access the passwords.

The company said in a statement that it was still blocking accounts that had changed passwords in the past month, but said, “We believe that only a small subset of these blocked accounts was compromised.” Twitter declined to comment on the job search.

In a sign of how much the nervous American lawmakers attacked, both Democrats and Republicans showed a rare bipartisan agreement that Twitter needs to better explain how the security lapse happened and what it was doing to prevent future attacks.

“This trick bodes ill for the November ballots,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, in a statement reprimanding Twitter for “its repeated security flaws and inability to safeguard accounts.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, asked what would happen if Twitter allowed a similar incident to happen on November 2, a day before the U.S. presidential election.

Jordan said he remained blocked from his Twitter account until Thursday afternoon.

President Donald Trump, a prolific Twitter user, planned to continue tweeting and his account was not compromised during the attack, spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said.

The White House had been in “constant contact with Twitter for the past 18 hours” to keep Trump’s Twitter feed safe, he said.

Twitter said the hackers had targeted employees with access to their internal systems and “used this access to take control of many highly visible accounts (including verified ones).”

Other high-profile accounts that were hacked included rapper Kanye West, Inc (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos, investor Warren Buffett, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) co-founder Bill Gates, and the corporate accounts of Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N) and Apple Inc (AAPL.O)

The company, which has been without a chief security officer since December, said the hackers carried out a “coordinated social engineering attack” against its employees.

Some security experts who have been studying the attack from abroad believe that there could be multiple actors involved.

His theory is that access to the employee tool, which should have been more closely monitored, spread among people interested in prestigious accounts for bragging rights or money. It could have spread even further, to spies or pranksters.

In an extraordinary step, Twitter temporarily blocked many verified accounts from posting messages while investigating the violation.

The hijacked accounts tweeted messages telling users to send bitcoins. Publicly available blockchain records show that apparent scammers received more than $ 100,000 in cryptocurrencies.

Until Thursday, Twitter continued to block tweets containing the bitcoin addresses that the scammers had used. Facebook Inc (FB.O) appeared to have temporarily enabled a similar security feature on its Messenger service on Wednesday, but did not respond to questions about whether it had also been the target of the attack.

Twitter shares fell just over 1% on Thursday.

CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday it was a “difficult day” for everyone on Twitter and promised to share “as much as we can when we have a more complete understanding of what exactly happened.”

Dorsey’s assurances did not mitigate Washington’s concerns about social media companies, whose policies have come under scrutiny by critics from both left and right.

FILE PHOTO: The Twitter logo and cyber binary codes are seen in this illustration taken on November 26, 2019. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

Frank Pallone, a Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee that oversees a sizable portion of America’s technology policy, said the company needed to explain how the attack occurred.

The US House Intelligence Committee contacted Twitter regarding the attack, according to a committee official who declined to be identified.

Reports by Joseph Menn, Katie Paul and Mark Hosenball; Additional reports from Ayanti Bera, Aakash Jagadeesh Babu and Subrat Patnaik in Bangalore; Elizabeth Culliford and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; and Nandita Bose, David Shepardson, Diane Bartz and Jeff Mason in Washington; Peter Graff, Carmel Crimmins, Chris Sanders and Lisa Shumaker edition

Our Standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.