PM Modi's twitter handle "very briefly compromised”; false claims on cryptos posted

PM Modi's twitter handle "very briefly compromised”; false claims on cryptos posted
Narendra Modi  |  Photo Credit: Reuters
12 Dec, 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Twitter account @narendramodi, which is also linked to his website, was “very briefly compromised” on Sunday, the PMO office said in a post on Twitter. 

"The Twitter handle of PM @narendramodi was very briefly compromised. The matter was escalated to Twitter and the account was immediately secured. In the brief period that the account was compromised, any Tweet shared must be ignored," the tweet said. 

Modi has 73.4 million followers on Twitter, which makes him the 11th most followed handle on the social media platform, according to industry estimates. 

The breach came to light when Modi’s Twitter handle was used by unknown attackers to publish a post that falsely claimed that India has adopted Bitcoin as a legal tender and the government of India has bought 500 Bitcoins to distribute among residents of the country.

The post was flagged by some Twitter users as the government of India has clearly said that private cryptos will not be accepted as legal tender in the country. 

A Twitter spokesperson said, "We have 24X7 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.”

The future of cryptos in India still hangs in balance and is expected to be decided in the ongoing winter session of the Parliament when the government tables the cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021. 

This isn't the first time Modi's Twitter handle was compromised. In September 2020, the handle was breached by a threat actor that used the pseudonym John Wick. After the breach, Modi’s handle was used to urge the public to make generous donations in the form of cryptos to the PM National Relief Fund to fight covid-19. 

Targeting of social media handles of high-profile individuals including corporate and state heads and using the brief access over them to solicit cryptocurrencies has become a fad among threat actors. 

In July 2020, Twitter handles of over 130 people including US president Joe Biden, former US president Barack Obama, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were compromised and used for a crypto scam.

The attackers used the compromised Twitter accounts to make false promises to double any bitcoin deposits made to a scam account. Hundreds of unsuspecting users were tricked and deposits worth $ 100,000 were made into the scam accounts, according to the US Department of Justice

However, within weeks of the incident, three people including a teenager were arrested and charged by law enforcement agencies in the US for identity theft and money laundering.