A 23-year-old U.K. citizen pleaded guilty in New York for his role in several online crimes including the Twitter hacking in 2020. Joseph James O’Connor, aka PlugwalkJoe, was extradition from Spain on April 26.
“O’Connor’s criminal activities were flagrant and malicious, and his conduct impacted multiple people’s lives. He harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in an official statement released by the Department of Justice .
“Like many criminal actors, O’Connor tried to stay anonymous by using a computer to hide behind stealth accounts and aliases from outside the United States.
“But this plea shows that our investigators and prosecutors will identify, locate, and bring to justice such criminals to ensure they face the consequences for their crimes,” Kenneth added while talking about the Twitter hacker.
The story behind the Twitter hacker arrest
O’Connor was arrested previously in July 2021 on charges of hacking Twitter accounts in June 2020.
The Twitter hacker was arrested in Spain at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The present arrest was made on April 26 for cyberstalking, hacking, extorting targets, and causing substantial emotional harm among other charges.
O’Connor admitted to his crimes and disclosed about co-conspirators with whom social engineering attacks to gain access to Twitter were conducted.
Prior to this extradition, an arrest of a teenager Mason Sheppard from Bognor Regis town in England was made in August 2020 with reference to the Twitter hacks.
Mason, 19 also called Chaewon was held for conspiracy for money laundering and wire fraud, accessing direct messages of 36 Twitter users, among other charges.
Another accomplice of Mason and O’Connor, Nima Fazeli aka Rolex, 22 from Orlando, Florida was charged with helping and abetting the hacking of a protected computer.
Furthermore, a minor called Graham Ivan Clark, 17 was caught in Tampa, Florida for helping and working on hacking.
The Twitter hacker arrest and the scams
Over 130 Twitter accounts belonging to musicians, politicians, and other influential celebrities including Benjamin Netanyahu and Joe Biden were hacked by O’Connor, Mason, Nima, and others.
O’Connor pleaded guilty of hacking celebrity Twitter accounts including the likes of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Kanye West, Warren Buffet et al. He hacked Twitter accounts of famous personalities and tweeted about charity funding and other scams using amateur wordings.
Other Twitter accounts compromised during the Twitter hack:
O’Connor confessed of buying access to Twitter accounts for $10,000 each.
Following the Twitter Hack in 2020, the social media platform confirmed the security incident.
A Twitter thread by the organization read, “We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”
We also limited functionality for a much larger group of accounts, like all verified accounts (even those with no evidence of being compromised), while we continue to fully investigate this.
We have locked accounts that were compromised and will restore access to the original account owner only when we are certain we can do so securely.”
The company also released an official security report, which was last updated on 30 July, 2020, explaining the incident and what the company was doing to secure the platform.
Twitter hacker arrest for sim swaps
Using subscriber identity module (SIM) swaps, a cyber intrusion technique, the Twitter hacker O’Connor with his accomplices stole cryptocurrency from a Manhattan-based cryptocurrency company.
They linked their number to the victim’s number by fraud which gave them access to all the messages and calls of the targets. O’Connor deposited a part of the loot into a cryptocurrency exchange account managed by him.
“O’Connor’s guilty plea today is a testament to the importance of law enforcement cooperation, and I thank our law enforcement partners for helping to bring to justice those who victimize others through cyber-attacks,” Attorney Damian Williams said in the news release. Several cases are still under FBI investigation.