‘PlugWalkJoe’ arrested for notorious celebrity’s Twitter hack of 2020


A 22-year-old UK national, known online as ‘PlugWalkJoe’, has been arrested on Spain’s Costa del Sol for allegedly being one of four young hackers who have taken control of dozens of Twitter accounts celebrity figures last year and used them to solicit over $ 115,000 in bitcoin.

The alleged perpetrators compromised 130 accounts in July last year, according to the latest criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of California, including those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Kanye West and Elon Musk.

The hackers then tweeted fake messages from the accounts asking their millions of subscribers to send bitcoin to one account and promising to double their money if they did.

The US Department of Justice said on Wednesday that Joseph O’Connor was arrested in Estepona by Spain’s National Police on several charges related to the high-profile hack last year.

O’Connor, accused in the DoJ’s criminal complaint of being a prolific hacker named “PlugWalkJoe,” previously denied responsibility for the hack, telling the New York Times: “I don’t care. They can come and arrest me. I would laugh at them. I did not do anything.

He told the newspaper that he had corresponded with the other alleged perpetrators but was being massaged near his home in Spain when the hack took place.

O’Connor is the fourth person to be charged in connection with the hacking. Just two weeks after the July 2020 attack, US authorities appointed Mason Sheppard, then 19, of Bognor Regis, UK, and Nima Fazeli, then 22, of Orlando, Florida, and Graham Ivan Clark, then 17, of Tampa. , Florida, as defendants in the FBI investigation.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of California, the attacks were carried out by a group of hackers with the aim of buying and selling coveted screen names on social media, known as “OGUsers”. “.

O’Connor was identified by FBI agents through a combination of messages he sent through the player chat platform Discord, as well as by anonymous informants, including one who identified a recording of his voice. , according to the record.

US authorities have been receiving information about his illicit online activity since 2018, according to the file, which also accused him of hacking the account of “one of the most viewed and followed accounts” on the media platform social rival TikTok, compromising the nude of a Snapchat user. photographs in order to extort them, and cyberstalking of a young victim.

Twitter declined to comment on the news of the arrest.

© Twitter

The Twitter fraud raised more than $ 115,000 in cryptocurrency, while the hackers also accessed the private message inboxes of 36 of the victims’ accounts and downloaded the personal data of seven, Twitter said. at the time.

The incident caused Twitter to prevent certain verified accounts from posting tweets for several hours a day and drew widespread criticism from the social media group for its lax security practices.

Last year, prosecutors in Tampa, Florida state called Clark the “mastermind” behind the attack, accusing him of using social engineering to trick a Twitter employee into Provide credentials to access the company’s customer service portal, claiming he was a co-worker in the IT department. Access to those “internal controls” then gave Clark access to Twitter accounts, state prosecutors said.

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