Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal Twitter handle (@narendramodi) was “briefly compromised” on December 12 morning, as confirmed by a tweet from the Prime Minister’s Office. The compromised account sent out a tweet falsely declaring that Bitcoin (BTC) had been adopted as legal tender in the country and that the government has bought 500 BTC to be distributed among residents of the country, according to a screenshot circulating on social media.
The tweet was swiftly taken down following which Twitter was alerted about the infraction and the account was secured. An appeal was made by the PMO, urging followers to ignore all tweets shared in that period.
The Twitter handle of PM @narendramodi was very briefly compromised. The matter was escalated to Twitter and the account has been immediately secured.
In the brief period that the account was compromised, any Tweet shared must be ignored.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) December 11, 2021
Following the incident, the Indian Computer Emergency Response System (CERT-In), the national nodal agency for responding to cybersecurity incidents as and when they occur, began an investigation whereby it will summon Twitter and Google for an enquiry, as per The Indian Express.
The personal account of PM Narendra Modi is one of the most popular accounts in India with 73.4 million followers. A tweet from this account is likely to be shared widely and can fool people into investing in the volatile crypto market without any due diligence.
What did Twitter say?
A Twitter spokesperson told MediaNama that: “We have 24×7 open lines of communication with the PM’s Office and our teams took necessary steps to secure the compromised account as soon as we became aware of this activity. Our investigation has revealed that there are no signs of any other impacted accounts at this time.”
It is interesting to note that the company’s own investigations revealed that the account was not compromised due to any breach of Twitter’s systems.
Srinivas Kodali, a researcher working on data, the internet, and cybersecurity, doubted if CERT-In is capable of undertaking a forensic investigation to identify the culprits behind the breach.
“I do not see large implications of this but the question at hand is how serious is CERT-In when it (such an incident) happens to other Indians who are not the Prime Minister,” he told MediaNama over the phone.
When asked about the growing frequency of these attacks and whether they cast aspersions on Twitter’s ability to provide security to its users, Kodali said that Twitter has measures in place like two-factor authentication.
‘Not the first time that PM’s Twitter account has been targeted’
The account of PM Modi’s personal website was compromised in September last year when hackers called upon his followers to donate to India’s National Relief Fund through cryptocurrency in a series of tweets.
The account (@narendramodi_in), with over 2.5 million followers, asked followers to donate Bitcoin and Ether to the PM National Relief Fund.
The hackers claimed they were from a group called John Wick. The tweets have since been deleted from the account.
Modi’s Twitter accounts are not the only ones which have been targeted by hackers as several Twitter accounts of prominent personalities were hacked in July 2020, including those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Kim Kardashian West.
The attackers posted tweets with Bitcoin wallet payment addresses after taking control of the accounts. The attackers did not claim credit for the massive hack, in which over 100 accounts were compromised. Twitter later said attackers had gained access to an internal tool that let them take control of high-profile handles.
The US Department of Justice charged three individuals for masterminding the operation, including a 17-year-old who had convinced an employee in the company’s IT department into giving him credentials to the internal tool.
The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address, according to Al Jazeera.
- More cybersecurity incidents reported till October this year than whole of 2020: MeitY reveals in Rajya Sabha
- A closer look at Biden’s cybersecurity policies since becoming US President in 2021
- Twitter crypto scam: 130 accounts targeted, 45 hacked, data of 8 users downloaded
Have something to add? Post your comment and gift someone a MediaNama subscription.