Joseph O’Connor, a 22-year-old British citizen, was arrested today by Spanish National Police for his role in the hijacking of 130 Twitter accounts belonging to politicians, celebrities, and musicians in July last year.
O’Connor was allegedly involved in the hijacking of 130 Twitter accounts in July, including the accounts of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, former Microsoft boss Bill Gates, former U.S. President Barack Obama, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, and the official Twitter accounts of Apple and Uber, among others.
Aside from O’Connor, three other individuals were charged in the U.S. for carrying out the Twitter hack on 16th July. They were 19-year-old Mason Sheppard of Bognor Regis in the UK, 22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando, Florida, and 17-year-old Graham Clark of Tampa, Florida.
“The hackers are alleged to have created a scam bitcoin account, to have hacked into Twitter VIP accounts, to have sent solicitations from the Twitter VIP accounts with a false promise to double any bitcoin deposits made to the scam account, and then to have stolen the bitcoin that victims deposited into the scam account,” DoJ said.
After gaining access to 130 Twitter VIP accounts, the hackers proceeded to tweet Bitcoin exchange deals, asking Twitter users to send certain amounts of BTC to a specified wallet address and receive a large sum in return. Considering these offers came from global celebrities themselves, many Twitter users fell for it, transferring more than $117,000 within a few hours before Twitter got the chance to sound an alarm.
Graham Clark of Tampa, Florida, who was 17 years old when the crime was perpetrated and is now an adult, pleaded guilty to acting as the mastermind of the operation in March this year. He agreed to serve three years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty, followed by another three years in probation.
“Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences. In this case, we’ve been able to deliver those consequences while recognizing that our goal with any child, whenever possible, is to have them learn their lesson without destroying their future,” said Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Aside from facing charges for illegally hijacking Twitter accounts, O’Connor is facing separate charges in the U.S. for hijacking the accounts of TikTok and Snapchat users as well. He is from Liverpool and uses the pseudonym ‘PlugWalkJoe‘ for online interactions and activities.
His involvement in the hacking of Twitter accounts first surfaced within two days after the hack occurred. According to some reports, security researcher Brian Krebs, who runs the site KrebsOnSecurity[.]com, was the first to publicly name O’Connor as among those involved in the hijacking of Twitter accounts. Krebs learned from sources that O’Connor was attending university in Spain but was unable to return to the UK due to COVID-19 related restrictions.
When contacted by The New York Times, O’Connor denied his involvement but admitted that he did purchase the Twitter account @6 from the hackers who were subsequently charged by a U.S. Court. “I don’t care – they can come arrest me. I would laugh at them. I haven’t done anything,” he said.