Some cybersecurity experts are warning the Twitter account hacking of politicians, tech executives, and celebrities could be a sign of a bigger breach that has not even been discovered yet.
The Twitter accounts of former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, rapper Kanye West along with others were hacked in a bitcoin scheme Wednesday night.
But some experts told Business Insider the attack could be a part of something even bigger. Twitter is still investigating the take over. The FBI has launched its own probe into the incident. So far, there is no evidence of a broader attack, but cybersecurity experts say they have suspicions.
"If you suddenly had access to some of the most prolific, powerful people, what would you do?" Kevin O'Brien, the CEO of the cloud email security company GreatHorn, told Business Insider. "Would you say that you wanted to get some bitcoin? That's a bizarrely small use of this level of access."
O'Brien suggested the tweets put out by the hackers, which asked for bitcoin payments, could have been a way for hackers to obtain other information or install backdoors.
"The question is: Is this attack something of a false flag?" O'Brien said. "It looks like a bitcoin scam, but really, say the accounts were being accessed because there was information that was in them that is valuable."
He said in the security industry, "you're paid to be paranoid."
"And the paranoia says there was something else happening at the same time, or these accounts were being accessed in ways that are far more damaging," he said.
Even though there is not any indication another attack took place, O'Brien said it would not be "surprising if there was a simultaneous, much wider attack."
Twitter stated Wednesday the hackers were able to gain access to internal systems by conducting "a coordinated social-engineering attack" against its employees. Vice Motherboard reports a current employee helped the hackers.
Chief security officer at IntSights Etay Maor told Business Insider it is unlikely the hackers will be able to exploit Twitter in a similar fashion again because the attack was so overt. He said the attack could have been much worse given the access to information they were able to obtain.
"I hate to say this about something bad that happened, but I think we're almost lucky that this is what it ended up with," Maor said, "and not something far more nefarious."
Vice president of Unit 42 at Palo Alto Networks Ryan Olson said the public attack could have been a distraction to keep officials away from a broader initiative.
"Noisy attacks are a great way to distract security teams from other malicious activities," Olson said in an email.
CEO of security app maker Clario Tech Alun Baker said the public attack could have been the hackers' way of exposing themselves after surreptitiously working behind the scenes.
"Typically a hacker has been in business for three to six months before they're discovered," Baker told Business Insider. "It's unusual for a hacker to show their hand right away.
"The next thing you have to ask yourself is: How long were they in there?"
Other experts say the public attack was not an effort to cover up a different scheme, but a way for the hackers to show off.
"I can only speculate about the true intentions behind this scam, but at the surface level, it appears their goal was to show off, get some attention, have a little fun, and walk away with a pocket full of cash in the end," Luis Corrons, a security evangelist for Avast, told Business Insider.
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