Hackers Take Over Tampa Mayor's Twitter Account

Feb 21, 2019
Originally published on February 21, 2019 1:20 pm

UPDATED at 1:20 p.m. with cybersecurity information.

Several racist, sexist and pornographic images have been deleted from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s Twitter account after they were posted reportedly by hackers early Thursday.

Tampa Police say they are investigating the hack to determine who is responsible for the messages. Authorities report Buckhorn is aware of the breach, and just after 9 a.m., the city appeared to be controling the account again.

The messages include threats to kill black people and bomb threats. WUSF News is not showing images of the tweets because of their graphic nature.

“Emergency alert ballistic missile thread [sic] inbound to Tampa Bay Area. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill,” reads one of the messages posted before dawn.

An early tweet included a bomb threat at Tampa International Airport. Officials at the airport said via Twitter Thursday morning police do not believe the threats are credible. They say airport operations will continue as planned.

The hacker also used racist pejoratives to refer to people of color.

One tweet reads: “blacks are not human.”

One of the last messages posted to the Mayor’s social media account directed people to join a message group on Discord, a gaming site.

Buckhorn Spokeswoman Ashley Bauman tweeted Thursday morning the messages were not from the Mayor.

“Upon noticing the hack we immediately began investigating these reprehensible tweets,” Bauman said.

She added, “We urge residents to change their passwords and continue to alert officials when they see an unlikely change in account activity.”

Assitant Director of Technology and Cybersecurity at The Florida Center for Cybersecurity Luis Valdes said hackers often use phishing scams, such as emails pretending to be from reputable companies, to gain access to accounts.

"Overall it is some type of social engineering to obtain the credential or a way of tricking the user to reveal what that account credential is," Valdes said.

He said people should use a two factor authentication to protect their accounts. Verified Twitter accounts, such as the mayor's, require a two-step login in process.  

This is a developing story.

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