The phenomenon started on May 30, with the hacking of the most followed person on Twitter: Katy Perry, whose 89 million followers received a string of abusive tweets. Then over the weekend of June 4-5 a slew of very different acts – all with fewer than a million followers – got the same treatment, among which were Bon Iver, Tame Impala, Keith Richards and Tenacious D. Over the past few days, Drake, Sonic Youth, Lana Del Rey and even George Harrison have been targeted, each in different ways.
What are the hackers doing?
Tame Impala’s following received a bomb threat from the hackers. Sonic Youth’s received a hoax announcement for a ‘surprise reunion concert’, while one of their followers was told to “get cancer” by the hackers. Alongside abusive messages posted to Katy Perry’s account, hackers appeared to leak a demo of her song ‘Witness’. Then, yesterday (June 7) there was George Harrison, whose bio was changed to a message from the ‘harmless’ hacker @j5zlol, saying he’d help George tighten his security, and not realizing that the Beatle passed away in 2001. That account later posted to Twitter “Well shit I hacked someone and I didn’t even know they was dead.. my bad”. His account has since been suspended by Twitter.
Who is behind the musician hacks?
Lots of people, but one notable one has come forward. He’s called J5Z and he claims to be from Canada. He’s claimed responsibility for not just the George Harrison hack, but also those on Tame Impala, Keith Richards, Bon Iver, Nick Warren and Cody Simpson, telling The Daily Beast, “I have no friends irl that’s why I hack people lol.”
He claims that although he hacked Tame Impala, he wasn’t behind the bomb threats posted to their account. This was another hacker, “a ‘friend’” he met on the internet. He added that he wants to “raise more awareness” about the issue of online security. “At first I did this for fun, but I never wanted to do this to ruin people’s careers. I’m just doing it to prevent that from ever happening in case someone who knows how to do it comes along and possibly does some damage. I don’t want to be seen as a bad person, even though I’m most likely being seen like that already.”
These ‘friends’ he mentions are people he knows have been behind other notable hacks in recent weeks. Just yesterday (June 7) Lana Del Rey’s account tweeted inflammatory and racist messages, among which was the claim that “bush did 9/11”. This hacker, who mentioned the handle @sw4ylol, appears to be the same one who targeted Katy Perry’s account at the end of May. That account has also since been suspended by Twitter.
J5Z did not give any names of hackers behind the more inflammatory attacks out there, telling The Daily Beast “I know who hacked them, but I’m not going to give names. It is down to them if they want to admit if they done it or not… Some are old friends, some are not.”
Why are musicians being hacked?
Some just want more Snapchat followers (Drake’s hacker, who appears to be @2aiden3, asked followers to add ‘aidenyeah’ on Snapchat) but for J5Z, hacking is a kind of public service. There are several people out there doing this, he says, so celebrities need to tighten up their security. “It’s famous musicians and artists at risk. If you’re a celebrity, you should change your password immediately. Literally everyone should just create a new email, think of a new password, and do it for every account.”
This applies for non-celebrities too, J5Z says, because the method being used to perform these hacks is “simple… anyone can do it.” He advises using a separate email and password for every account. “Don’t use the obvious stuff like your [date of birth] or name in your password or email. Stop using information that anyone can guess.”