A security incident involving some of the most prominent business and political leaders on Twitter duped people into sending at least $120,000 worth of Bitcoin to an anonymous online wallet, and more than half of that total has already been spirited to other accounts, according to a Bitcoin-tracing company.
The person or people behind the scam gained access to the Twitter accounts of executives including Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos and Tesla Inc. Founder Elon Musk, asking users to direct Bitcoin to one of three different accounts, said Tom Robinson, co-founder of Elliptic, which has helped law-enforcement agencies track Bitcoin-related crime.
About $65,000 of the $120,000 collected from duped users has moved to other Bitcoin addresses, one of which has been active in the past and is registered with a U.S. exchange, Robinson said.
That money trail could prove useful to investigators in this case, since U.S. exchanges typically go through vigorous verification of user identities, and would probably have information on which name the account is registered under.
About half of the funds the hackers acquired came from users in the U.S., a quarter from Europe and the remainder from Asia, Robinson said.
Discovering the perpetrators could still take time and prove challenging.
“It depends on what they do next, it depends on how they try to cash out,” Robinson said. If they try to use a regulated exchange in the U.S., finding them will be easy. But if they try to cash out through one of the hundreds of small, unregulated exchanges, that could be harder, he said.
While Bitcoin is supposed to be difficult to track, a number of tracing firms have sprung up to help law enforcement.
Exchanges and other providers have begun collecting more information on their customers. So law-enforcement agencies have been able to track stolen Bitcoins many times in the past.