The Official Twitter accounts of Apple, Uber, Joe Biden and billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Barack Obama were among those hacked in what appeared to a major cryptocurrency scam.
Official accounts on the same social media platform, including those for Kanye West, Kim Kardashian were also targeted.
They were simultaneously hacked on Wednesday evening and a scammers’ message posted encouraging users to send 1,000 dollars (£794) to a Bitcoin address.
In return, users were promised that their money will be doubled and returned to them.
A post on Tesla CEO Mr Musk’s account read: “I’m feeling generous because of Covid-19. I’ll double any BTC payment sent to my BTC address for the next hour.”
The tweet asked for Bitcoin and promised to “double all payments” sent to an address.
This was the beginning of a wave of takeovers of high-profile Twitter accounts, including Apple, Uber, Amazon CEO Mr Bezos and Microsoft founder Mr Gates.
Most of the tweets were deleted within a number of minutes, but many had been retweeted thousands of times.
Twitter said it believed the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools.
They were then used to take control of many high-profile and verified accounts and tweet from them, the social media firm said in statement.
The Bitcoin account mentioned in the fake tweets appeared to have been created on Wednesday. By the end of the day, it had received almost 12.9 bitcoins, an amount currently valued at slightly more than $114,000 (£90,000).
At some point during the day, roughly half that sum in bitcoin was withdrawn from the account.
The hacked messages were posted after several high-profile cryptocurrency companies’ Twitter accounts shared malicious links earlier on Wednesday.
Tyler Winklevoss, who founded cryptocurrency company Gemini alongside brother Cameron, tweeted earlier: “WARNING: Gemini’s twitter account, along with a number of other crypto twitter accounts, has been hacked. This has resulted in Gemini, Coinbase, Binance, and Coindesk, tweeting about a scam partnership with CryptoForHealth.
“DO NOT CLICK THE LINK! These tweets are SCAMS.”
His brother Cameron added: “ALL MAJOR CRYPTO TWITTER ACCOUNTS HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED.”
Reacting to this, Twitter said it believes to be an attack on some of its employees with access to the company’s internal tools.
“We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools,” Twitter’s support team said late Wednesday.
“Once we became aware of the incident, we immediately locked down the affected accounts and removed Tweets posted by the attackers,” Twitter said. “We have locked accounts that were compromised and will restore access to the original account owner only when we are certain we can do so securely.”
A little more than an hour after the attack began, Twitter apparently moved to prevent holders of verified accounts from tweeting. Non-verified accounts could still tweet, however.
Around 8:30 pm ET, roughly three hours after Twitter first said publicly that it was investigating the apparent hack and a little more than two hours after it shut down tweeting for some accounts, Twitter said the majority of accounts had been restored to full functionality.
“Most accounts should be able to Tweet again. As we continue working on a fix, this functionality may come and go,” Twitter said. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”
The company said it is still investigating the breach and what other data may have been compromised.