Twitter Security Flaws Pose a Unique Threat to Nuclear Diplomacy, Experts Say
As hackers compromised world leaders’ Twitter accounts, researchers released a report on the risk tweets pose to international conflict
When it came time to set a publication date for their report Escalation by Tweet: Managing the new nuclear diplomacy, King’s College London researchers Heather Williams and Alexi Drew settled on the arbitrary date of Wednesday, July 15 to release 18 months’ of research on how Twitter’s format is uniquely positioned to make dangerous global situations exponentially worse.
Their timing turned out to be prescient. Within hours of the paper’s online publication, Twitter endured the worst security breach in its history.
Hackers seizing the official accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Apple, and other high-profile companies and individuals defrauded an estimated $116,000 from unsuspecting users who fell for phony tweets promising to pay them twice the amount deposited at a provided bitcoin wallet address. (Several people on Twitter pointed out that they knew it was a hoax when Bezos, whose philanthropic efforts have lagged behind his fellow multibillionaires, tweeted “I have decided to give back to my community.”)
Twitter jumped to action and temporarily blocked all verified users from tweeting or resetting their passwords Wednesday while it worked to restore security. The company is currently investigating how the breach occurred.
“When I first heard about yesterday’s hack, it was like seeing some of our nightmare scenarios play out.”
Yet the hours of chaos underscored the King’s College London team’s most key conclusions: because of its global reach, immediacy, informality, and centralized control, Twitter holds an outsized ability to escalate crises and amplify misunderstandings, and it’s far from clear that the company — or any social media company, for that matter — is fully equipped to limit the damage rendered from its platform.
“When I first heard about yesterday’s hack, it was like seeing some of our nightmare scenarios play…