New security research has uncovered that cybercriminals are abusing verification marks on X (formerly known as Twitter) by compromising passwords of verified accounts and either selling them on the dark web or using them for their own scams.
Malicious actors who purchase these verified accounts then have access to a wide number of people who are under the impression they are receiving content from the original owner.
However, the new account owner can post malicious phishing or financial scams that steal cryptocurrencies, personal information, and other valuable data.
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The research, conducted by CloudSEK, examined how verified accounts on X have been bought and sold on forums in the Dark Web and the significant financial disruption that has been caused by scams run on stolen accounts.
The research found that a fresh X account would sell for around $0.30, but accounts older than 5 years with a gold affiliation could sell for anywhere between $1200 - $2000. The prices also vary depending on the number of followers associated with the account, with one account with 28,000 followers being advertised for between $2000 - $2500.
Many of these accounts are compromised through brute forcing passwords, and as many of these accounts have often laid dormant for several years, it is unlikely that any password security or authentication methods have been implemented onto the accounts.
We all remember the chaos caused by the release of the original Twitter Blue subscription, which allowed users to subscribe for a small blue check mark next to their name, commonly associated with verified or trustworthy accounts. This led to the impersonations of celebrities including Elon Musk, and the impersonation of corporate entities.
To illustrate the dangers associated with these stolen accounts, CloudSEK drew attention to how the co-founder of Ethereum had their X account stolen in a cyberattack. Before they could re-secure their account, the hackers had posted a link to a fake website offering free non-fungible tokens (NFTs) which managed to steal $691,000 in cryptocurrency before it was taken down just 20 minutes later.
CloudSEK recommends that if you have an old X account that you do not use, close it down and ensure it is deleted, especially if it is a corporate account with a large following, as these are more likely to be targeted. Ensure that your accounts are employing the best password security practices.
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Benedict Collins is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro covering privacy and security. Before settling into journalism he worked as a Livestream Production Manager, covering games in the National Ice Hockey League for 5 years and contributing heavily to the advancement of livestreaming within the league. Benedict is mainly focused on security issues such as phishing, malware, and cyber criminal activity, but he also likes to draw on his knowledge of geopolitics and international relations to understand the motives and consequences of state-sponsored cyber attacks.
He has a MA in Security, Intelligence and Diplomacy, alongside a BA in Politics with Journalism, both from the University of Buckingham. His masters dissertation, titled 'Arms sales as a foreign policy tool,' argues that the export of weapon systems has been an integral part of the diplomatic toolkit used by the US, Russia and China since 1945. Benedict has also written about NATO's role in the era of hybrid warfare, the influence of interest groups on US foreign policy, and how reputational insecurity can contribute to the misuse of intelligence.
Outside of work Ben follows many sports; most notably ice hockey and rugby. When not running or climbing, Ben can most often be found deep in the shrubbery of a pub garden.