Twitter’s on the spot. Can it fix its security flaws in the next four months? The American presidential election is slated for November 3.
And it was last Tuesday that hackers pulled off a quick bitcoin scam on the platform, taking over the blue-check accounts of Joe Biden and Barack Obama, as well as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Uber and Apple, among others, to appeal for donations, promising to double the amount as part of a pretend-philanthropic effort. The fraudsters made off with a tidy sum of US $180,000.
Is it Gru or the MSS? Were the hackers bribed to test the platform? The account of Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, was compromised last year. Last year, too, two Twitter employees were accused of abusing access to aid Saudi Arabia’s efforts to spy on dissidents abroad.
The relatively modest pickings from the con has raised suspicions of belligerent international cyber-activity — the presumptive Democratic nominee, Biden, on Saturday warning China and Russia against interference; and western governments days prior accusing Kremlin of trying to pilfer coronavirus vaccine research from academic and pharmaceutical institutions.
The methodology of the meddling could be similar to the Twitter fraud — spreading of disinformation in order to influence voter turnout, for example, through fake news about a fresh coronavirus outbreak or a sudden closure of polling stations — or it could be more insidious — coming in the form of fake news intended to undermine public perception of the candidate in voter minds.
If timed close enough to the polling day, it would leave the political party concerned with no time for defence or damage control.
Then again, the adversaries could game the system — infiltrate entire voting networks — ransomware hackers could seek to lock up registration databases, a move that would disrupt both physical voting and voting through postal ballots; it is part of what Russia is accused of attempting during the 2016 US polls.
In the 2019 elections in Ukraine, too, and in the EU parliamentary polls, it reportedly unleashed a series of spearphishing attacks on government bodies.
In 2007, a series of cyber-attacks on the parliament, banks, ministries and telecom had paralysed Estonia coinciding with the nation’s disagreement with Russia over the relocation of a Soviet-era memorial.
Is Cold War 2.0 building up? Or have the political left and right, alas, come together as one?