As far as the digital world goes, my knowledge is rudimentary for my age bracket. I am a particularly gifted streamer; an occasional paywall manipulator; a serial social media voyeur; and I live and breathe contactless. Pretty standard – if not yet clinically mandated – stuff.
So, when the news broke of a big, bad Twitter hack last week, I was captivated. The accounts of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West and Bill Gates, among many other celebrities and corporations, were targeted to tweet a Bitcoin scam to millions of followers.
The tweets read variously as follows:
“I am giving back to the community due to Covid-19! All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled. If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000! Only doing this for the next 30 minutes! Enjoy.”
Evidently, the scam itself was basic: the hackers made away with just $116,000 worth of cryptocurrency. For all we know, this was a group of kids chortling in a basement somewhere, just out to prove a point and make everyone else look stupid.
But it exposes something much more unsettling: our own vast digital vulnerability and a real capacity for malice that many of us have been quietly ignoring.
While I sleepwalk through cyberspace, gawking gormlessly at people I’ve not seen or heard from in the best part of a decade, or browsing knock-off teeth whitening kits on Amazon, hackers with motives less pure are up to no good.
With just a couple of nifty clicks, they can waltz into some of the most powerful social media accounts in the world and do, well, whatever the heck they want.
If last Wednesday’s hackers had chosen to manipulate the stock markets or distribute information about a hoax emergency, the damage could have been much worse. It is a scary, if unsuccessful, reminder that future invasions will likely not happen on the beaches, but at the digital frontier.
This does not mean we should cower away in fear; advances in technology make our lives, on the whole, much easier, and will continue to be crucial as we adapt to a world marred by Covid-19.
Rather, this news should be the awakening we need to finally take it seriously, to invest in our digital security and to better scrutinise those companies to whom we so happily serve our data on a ‘space grey’ platter.