Brit pleads guilty to hacking celebrities’ Twitter accounts to steal bitcoin | Science and technology news
A Briton has pleaded guilty to hacking Twitter accounts — including Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk — to scam people out of bitcoin.
Joseph O’Connor, 23, also admitted other hacking schemes, cyberstalking a young victim and charges of money laundering.
He was extradited to New York from Spain last month and faces up to 77 years in prison when sentenced on June 23.
O’Connor and his co-conspirators stole more than $794,000 (£629,000) in cryptocurrency – money he must return to victims, prosecutors say.
Twitter had to freeze some of the stars’ accounts after tweets in July 2020 asked people to send $1,000 in bitcoin to get double back.
He also hacked accounts of Kanye West, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Twitter confirmed that 130 accounts were attacked, 45 of which were used to send tweets.
The company said the hackers gained access via a social engineering attack — a breach that relies on convincing someone to grant access rather than finding bugs in the software.
This was announced on Twitter at the time “A small number of employees” were called by telephone and were tricked into providing their credentials.
The amateur quality of the scam surprised many compared to how effective the attackers were in gaining access.
“O’Connor’s criminal activities were flagrant and malicious, and his conduct impacted the lives of several people,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite said.
“He has harassed, threatened and blackmailed his victims, causing significant emotional damage in the process.”
O’Connor, who went by the alias PlugWalkJoe online and had previously given media interviews about the hack, was arrested in Spain in July 2021 at the request of the FBI.