AN IT firm is urging is urging North-East businesses and organisations to strengthen cybersecurity after Twitter was hacked.

Cyber criminals accessed the social media platform's system and targeted high-profile accounts such as Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Kanye West, which requested donations in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in an apparent scam. Other targets included billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Kim Kardashian.

Garry Brown, managing director of Darlington-based Bondgate IT, said this was a social engineering attack whereby hackers gain access to a systems by effectively tricking its employees.

He said: “This may be the biggest security breach in Twitter’s history and is not only a major embarrassment but will have damaged its reputation and credibility with users.

“It is most likely the result of an email phishing attack, whereby staff with access to its internal systems were tricked into clicking on a malicious link or attachment, which allowed access to sensitive information.

“This is a not just a problem confined to large corporate organisations in America, but one faced by businesses and organisations in the North-East on a daily basis.

“Most people will have been the recipient of a phishing email, which underlines how widespread the practice is and the urgent need for businesses to take this threat seriously.”

Earlier this year, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre revealed the public had flagged up 160,000 suspicious emails in one 14-day period.

To strengthen cybersecurity, update antivirus software, secure networks and cloud services, update all software and apps, use email security solutions, ensure staff use a password management tool and enforcing multi-factor authentication.

The same precautions should be taken on individual devices including laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones.

Twitter described it as a co-ordinated attack targeting its employees "with access to internal systems and tools".

Mr Brown added: “Such social engineering attacks can not just damage a company’s reputation but cost many thousands or millions of pounds. This incident highlights the need for businesses to invest in comprehensive, multi-layered cyber security measures if they too are not to risk becoming a victim.”