NEW DELHI—Indian officials are investigating how Prime Minister
account was hacked, with a tweet to his more than 73 million followers falsely saying India was adopting bitcoin as legal tender and distributing it to people in the country.
The account was briefly compromised before being secured, the prime minister’s office said on Twitter. The issue had been escalated to Twitter Inc., and the tweet should be ignored, the office said.
Twitter said its systems weren’t breached in the hack. The company has round-the-clock lines of communication open with the prime minister’s office and secured Mr. Modi’s account “as soon as we became aware of this activity,” a Twitter spokeswoman said. A Twitter investigation showed no other accounts appeared to be affected, she added.
Twitter recommends that to protect their accounts people take steps such as activating two-factor authentication, requiring not just a password but also a second form of identification to log in, such as a code sent via an app. A spokeswoman declined to provide specifics on the degree to which Mr. Modi’s account was protected.
An Indian government official said rigorous security measures were taken to protect the account, and that the investigation would seek to examine the IP address and internet service provider the hacker used to access the account.
The hack came after the Indian government last month said it would consider a bill to prohibit private cryptocurrencies in India, with some exceptions, and create an official digital currency to be issued by the Reserve Bank of India, according to a parliamentary bulletin.
In a speech last month, Mr. Modi said that democratic countries should work together to ensure bitcoin doesn’t end up in the wrong hands, without elaborating.
The proposed legislation, which is still evolving, will likely ban the use of cryptocurrencies as legal tender in India, according to government officials. But New Delhi is considering how they might be regulated as an asset class for investment. Officials are monitoring the way other governments are treating cryptocurrencies and the open-access ledger that underpins them, known as the blockchain.
One government official said the final bill would likely be friendly toward startups and those advocating the use of new technology. The proposal to create an official digital currency will likely be kept out of the bill, the official said.
Mr. Modi has one of the world’s most-followed Twitter accounts, with more followers than U.S. President
Tesla Inc. Chief Executive
and fashion mogul
Kim Kardashian West.
The tweet from Mr. Modi’s account, later deleted, claimed the government had purchased 500 bitcoins, a type of cryptocurrency that has attracted significant investment and hype in recent years. The tweet contained a link to a blog, now inaccessible, that suggested bitcoin was being given away.
India’s agency for monitoring cybersecurity incidents and threats, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, is investigating the hack, according to government officials with knowledge of the matter.
Digital payments have become more common in the country of more than 1.3 billion in recent years, with popular services from the likes of
One97 Communications Ltd.
Google, and WhatsApp, the messaging service from Meta Platforms. But while cryptocurrency-related startups in India have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars of funding in recent years, it is unclear how widespread their services may become in the South Asian nation.
India’s government has in recent years been setting out new rules to govern U.S. tech giants and promote homegrown champions. It has tightened e-commerce rules and wants to better police harmful material online. In May, Indian police visited Twitter’s office in New Delhi to investigate the company’s labeling of a ruling party spokesman’s tweets as misleading.
A hacker last year broke into Twitter’s systems and gained access to several high profile Twitter accounts, including those belonging to Barack Obama and Bill Gates, to post messages requesting money be sent to cryptocurrency accounts. A Florida teenager pleaded guilty in March to crimes including fraud and unauthorized computer access after prosecutors accused him of imitating a Twitter information-technology employee to gain access to the company’s networks, bypassing its security measures.
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