The cryptocurrency world was set abuzz on Tuesday when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s official X account suddenly tweeted that it had approved a spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). The price of Bitcoin (BTC) quickly spiked on the false news before the SEC deleted the rogue tweet 30 minutes later, confirming its account had been hacked.
While X stated that the hack was due to an unknown third party gaining control of a phone number associated with the account, rather than a breach of X’s systems, speculation quickly mounted over the possible identity of the troublemaking hacker or hackers. Some conspiracy theorists even suggest that SEC Chairman Gary Gensler or others inside the regulatory agency itself were behind the stunt.
So, what do we know? Firstly, the meticulously designed fake announcement points to a deliberate attempt to manipulate markets rather than a random prank. The accompanying image mimicking the SEC’s own visual style would have required careful planning and attention to detail. Whoever was behind this went to great lengths to make the bogus notice appear convincingly official.
Additionally, it is evident the hacker possessed some technical sophistication. According to X’s investigation, the security breach occurred because the perpetrator executed a SIM-swap attack to hijack the phone number linked to the @SECGov Twitter handle. This allowed them to bypass standard authentication and gain entry to the account. The ability to pull off this type of phone number theft denotes an adept cyber criminal at work, rather than an amateur.
So while the individual’s or group’s identity remains uncertain, both the precise preparation behind the fake post and the method used point to someone with capability, determination, and potential financial motivation to temporarily commandeer the SEC’s influential account.
“What are the chances Elon actually ‘hacked’ the SEC account, out of pure vindictive impulsiveness?” posted cryptocurrency journalist David Z. Morris. The eccentric billionaire tech mogul has clashed with the SEC in the past and harbors no love for the agency.
Others are convinced the hack came from inside the SEC itself, or that it wasn’t a hack at all. @1MarkMoss floated the theory that the quick turnaround was evidence it could have been an inside job. “My guess, this was scheduled in their account to go out tomorrow, and the intern messed up the date.”
While the SEC called the incident “unauthorized access” of its account by an “unknown party,” critics noted the agency moved uncharacteristically fast to squash the fake news, issuing coordinated responses from both its official account and Chairman Gensler within minutes. This has fueled doubts over whether it was truly an external breach.
“I am no cybersecurity expert, but it seems almost impossible to notice a bad tweet from a .org account, tweet from the chair’s account to correct it, then recover a hacked social media account, then tweet about incident and response to it from hacked account, all in a few minutes…” digital asset firm VanEck’s Gabor Gurbacs observed with skepticism.
As the crypto community often does, many people resorted to conspiracy theories to explain the incident. In one X poll , over 79% of respondents said they thought the hack was an inside job. In another poll , 84% of respondents thought something was amiss.
Some of the online commentary revolves around the narrative that Gary Gensler engineered a market-moving event as an excuse to reject spot Bitcoin ETFs on market manipulation grounds. Others pointed out the perceived hypocrisy of the SEC punishing firms for other market-moving faux pas while it gets off scot-free.