Her team says it was a phishing attack.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Nikki Fried’s Twitter account was overtaken Saturday evening as part of a phishing attack, confirmed Keith Edwards, who is the new communications director for her gubernatorial campaign.
“We are doing everything we can to get Twitter support to fix it,” Edwards wrote on Twitter. “Don’t click on any of the links tweeted from that account.”
An hour later, Edwards could be seen publicly pleading for help from Twitter.
“We’ve emailed but any quick support would be appreciated,” Edwards wrote in a tweet directed at Twitter’s @Verified and @TwitterSupport accounts.
So, what happened? Well, on Saturday night, the verified @NikkiFried Twitter account looked totally different than it normally does. The Florida agriculture commissioner and political candidate’s display name had been changed to “Nikki.eth.” The biography section listed her as the moderator for a 3-D art page called “Skulltoons,” which was also advertised in her hacked profile and cover photos.
Phishing attacks usually involve “bad guys” sending a message made to look like it’s from a trustworthy source. Sometimes these are emails that might seem like they’re coming from a website or person you know. They can be used to trick you into handing over your login information.
And, these attacks are incredibly common. Some experts estimate phishing was involved in nearly a third of all cyberattacks.
In fact, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has ramped up consumer warnings during the pandemic as scammers used phishing techniques to target people with fake COVID-19 relief fund promises. In some cases, Moody explained last year, the scammers were impersonating Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to get victims to hand over personal data.
In 2016, Russian hackers reportedly used phishing techniques to target both Republicans and Democrats before ultimately releasing thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
Fried’s official @NikkiFriedFL account, which she uses for state business, appeared untouched, as of 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Her Facebook and Instagram accounts appeared fine too.
Fried, the state’s highest-elected Democrat and member of the Florida Cabinet, is running to unseat Gov. Ron DeSantis. Polling has shown DeSantis with double-digital leads over Fried.
Supporters of both candidates have not minced words during the election cycle.
Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ government office, on Saturday used her personal account to poke fun at the Fried campaign for misspelling phishing as “fishing.” Pushaw, who does not speak for DeSantis’ reelection campaign, used a file photo of former governor Charlie Crist – another 2022 Democratic challenger to DeSantis – holding a fish to drive her point home.
Fellow Democratic gubernatorial challenger, State Senator Annette Taddeo, appeared to make light of the situation too.
“PSA: I’m not taking donations in crypto,” Taddeo tweeted. At the time, Fried’s hacked account was promoting the sale of NFTs. (We explain NFTs in this article).
As of 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Fried’s account had gone private and appeared to be in the process of being restored to its original state.
Fried, 44, was raised in Miami and earned a law degree from the University of Florida. She has worked in private practice and led the felony division of the Alachua County Public Defender’s Office. Before being elected as agriculture commissioner, Fried worked as a lobbyist, including for the expansion of access to medical marijuana.