Hackers hijack Twitter account of India PM Modi’s website, ask for donations in Covid-19 bitcoin scam

A Twitter account linked to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have been hacked, with scammers urging followers to “donate” cryptocurrency to support a coronavirus relief fund in the PM’s name.

The verified Twitter handle, made for Modi’s personal website and boasting some 2.5 million followers, was hit by a security breach on Wednesday, sending out a string of posts penned in shaky English asking for ‘generous’ donations to the “PM National Relief Fund for Covid-19” along with a Bitcoin address.

The hackers eventually made themselves known, however, sending out one final tweet admitting “Yes this account is hacked by John Wick” – apparently a reference to the action film franchise starring Keanu Reeves. The tweets have all since been deleted.

A massive data breach in late August at Paytm, an Indian company that facilitates financial transactions, was attributed to the same ‘John Wick’ hacker group by cyber security firm Cyble Inc., which said the intruders were “able to gain unrestricted access to their entire databases.” Those behind the hack on Modi’s account denied any involvement in the earlier breach, however, stating in a tweet from the PM’s handle that “We have not hacked Paytm Mall,” referring to the particular app that was compromised.

Dozens of high-profile accounts fell prey to a similar crypto scam in July, ensnaring celebrities, politicians, corporations and billionaires. Handles belonging to former US president Barack Obama, 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, among others, each sent out tweets requesting Bitcoin donations, racking up more than $100,000 for the hackers. Twitter revealed the attack targeted more than 100 accounts in total, after the hackers managed to steal employee credentials to gain access to internal support tools.

The July hack, said to be the largest in Twitter’s history, was masterminded by a 17-year-old Floridian, Graham Ivan Clark, who was aided by two others, one of them a UK national, according to prosecutors. Clark has since pleaded not guilty to all 30 charges he faces, for which he could be sentenced to 200 years in prison.

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