UK man pleads guilty to Twitter hack that compromised accounts of Joe Biden, Elon Musk


The Twitter logo is displayed on a smartphone screen on April 14, 2021.

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LONDON – A UK man has pleaded guilty to helping orchestrate a high-profile hack on the Twitter accounts of several celebrities and politicians, including Elon Musk, Joe Biden and Kanye West.

Joseph O’Connor, 23, known under an online alias as “Plugwalk Joe,” entered his guilty plea in a New York court on Tuesday, according to the Justice Department. Press release, He was extradited from Spain last month.

O’Connor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer hacking, computer intrusion, extortion and threatening communications, cyberstalking, and wire fraud and money laundering. Combined, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 77 years, the Justice Department said.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said that O’Connor’s activities were “flagrant and malicious”.

“He harassed, threatened and extorted his victims, causing significant emotional harm,” Humble, Jr. said in a statement Tuesday.

“Like many criminal actors, O’Connor tried to remain anonymous outside the United States by using a computer to hide behind stealth accounts and aliases. But this petition shows that our investigators and prosecutors are unable to identify such criminals. Will track them down and bring them to justice. To ensure that they face the consequences of their crimes.”

Twitter said at the time that about 130 people were targeted in the 2020 attack. Hackers took control of accounts to promote a bitcoin scam, instructing users to send funds to multiple bitcoin addresses.

Twitter said in 2020, shortly after the cyberattack, that it believed the hack was a “coordinated social engineering attack” on its employees — in other words, company insiders were tricked into handing over access to internal systems and tools .

According to Twitter as of July 2020, attackers were able to gain access to Twitter’s internal controls by compromising a small number of employees. blog post,

“O’Connor communicated with others regarding the purchase of unauthorized access to a variety of Twitter accounts, including accounts associated with public figures around the world,” the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

“Several Twitter accounts targeted by O’Connor were later transferred away from their rightful owners. O’Connor agreed to buy unauthorized access to one Twitter account for $10,000.”

‘Impressive trail of destruction’

O’Connor was also charged and convicted for his role in a SIM-swapping attack, which occurs when an attacker convinces a mobile phone carrier to transfer a person’s phone number to their device in order to bypass multi-factor authentication on online accounts.

According to the Department of Justice, the attack targeted several high-profile companies and executives in the cryptocurrency industry, including Binance, Tron founder Justin Sun and Litecoin founder Charlie Lee, and $794,000 in digital assets were stolen. The DOJ said O’Connor agreed to forfeit $794,000 to the court and to pay restitution to the victims of his crimes.

The Justice Department said O’Connor compromised the account of “one of the most visible TikTok accounts” and threatened to release sensitive, personal material belonging to victims of the cyberattack, which was posted on the chat app Discord. Connected to the specified server.

Ishmael J. Ramsey, US Attorney for the Northern District of California, said that O’Connor “left an impressive trail of destruction” in the wake of his wave of criminality.

Ramsay said, “This case serves as a reminder that the reach of the law is long, and criminals anywhere who use computers to commit crimes can face the consequences of their actions.”

O’Connor was one of four men charged with the scheme. In 2021, American teen Graham Evan Clarke pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

Nima Fazeli of Orlando, Florida, and Mason Sheppard of Bognor Regis in the UK have also been accused of hacking.

O’Connor was Arrested in July 2021 in Estepona, a resort town on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, by the Spanish National Police at the request of the US authorities.

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