The recent hack of the social media platform Twitter and taking over of dozens of accounts of the rich and famous may have been a simple money grab, but the implications go far wider. Among those who unwittingly tweeted a bitcoin scam to millions of followers last week were Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Musk, US Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, celebrities Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian, and the firms Apple and Uber. If private messages and passwords and the like were also taken, reputations and business interests could also be harmed. But it is the nature of the breach and what it could mean in a political or domestic or global security setting that is most worrying; the giants of the internet world have to constantly update safety mechanisms and ensure stringent policing. The attack was noticed when the accounts of verified Twitter users began sending out messages with the classic scamming promise of doubling the amount of money sent to a specified link, in this case US$1,000 in bitcoin. Twitter was quick to step in and close affected accounts, but at least US$100,000 was forwarded. The company believes the scammers were able to get around account security safeguards by gaining access to administrative tools. That implies someone with administrative rights may have inadvertently or intentionally granted the hackers access. Users are surely worried that personal data has been stolen and may be wrongfully used. It should not be forgotten that the Twitter account of America’s Associated Press news agency was hacked in 2013 and false news circulated that then president Barack Obama had been injured by explosions in the White House. The New York stock market plunged in value by US$136.5 billion until it reversed losses six minutes later after the scam was revealed. But financial gain is one matter; it is sinister intent that has to be prevented. What if a media platform is used to send false news about a candidate on the eve of an election or if a message is sent from a defence department contending that a rival nation has started a war? Some of the most powerful and important Twitter accounts have been compromised and that has to serve as a serious warning.