The New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) has called on the government to regulate social media giants in response to July’s dramatic Bitcoin-themed Twitter hack.
“Given that Twitter is a publicly traded, $37 billion technology company, it was surprising how easily the [h]ackers were able to penetrate Twitter’s network and gain access to internal tools allowing them to take over any Twitter user’s account,” said the DFS in a report published Wednesday.
The DFS urged policymakers to consider regulating social media giants for their cybersecurity on top of antitrust matters and content moderation processes. This would bring Twitter and Facebook in line with critical infrastructure such as utilities, telecoms, and finance.
Twitter stock slipped up to 2% in the moments after release of the DFS report, but so had the tech-heavy NASDAQ 100 index.
Social media hackers could influence markets, says the DFS
Back in July, hackers leveraged accounts belonging to major celebrities like Barack Obama and Elon Musk to promote a “double your Bitcoin” scam in an attack that lasted hours. The DFS’s own Twitter account was also reportedly compromised.
Two weeks later, authorities arrested an alleged 17-year-old Florida teen mastermind and two others, reportedly slapping the former (as an adult) with 30 felony charges including fraud. He’s had one court appearance so far, which reportedly faced constant interruptions by porn-peddling Zoombombers posing as CNN and BBC News employees.
Related Bitcoin wallet addresses suggest the hackers managed to swindle roughly $110,000 from unsuspecting users.
“The implications of the Twitter Hack extend far beyond this garden-variety fraud,” said the DFS. “There are well-documented examples of social media being used to manipulate markets and interfere with elections, often with the simple use of a single compromised account or a group of fake accounts. In the hands of a dangerous adversary, the same access obtained by the [h]ackers – the ability to take control of any Twitter users’ account – could cause even greater harm.”
For what it’s worth, the market did react to the attack; Twitter stock opened 4% lower the following morning, representing $1 billion in market value lost.
However, Twitter‘s share price quickly recovered throughout the course of the day’s trade. It remains more than 40% up for the year, tracking just ahead of the NASDAQ 100.
“The Twitter Hack demonstrates, more than anything, the risk to society when systemically important institutions are left to regulate themselves. Protecting systemically important social media against misuse is crucial for all of us–consumers, voters, government, and industry. The time for government action is now,” concluded the DFS.