A 22-year-old was arrested in hacks of Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat.
A 22-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in Spain in connection with the hacking of more than 100 Twitter accounts last July, becoming the fourth person charged in the incident, which resulted in the temporary shutdown of the social media service.
The man, Joseph O’Connor, is accused in the United States of hacking, extortion and cyberstalking in the Twitter violation and is accused of hacking the TikTok account of popular creator Addison Rae Easterling and the Snapchat account of the actress Bella Thorne, the Justice Department said.
The Twitter incident began when hackers logged into an online forum focused on buying and selling rare usernames last year, some of those involved told the New York Times at the era. They then broke into Twitter’s systems tricking employees into providing login information, according to legal documents. The hackers used an administrative tool to grab accounts belonging to politicians and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Kanye West and Elon Musk, using the accounts to carry out a Bitcoin scam, according to the documents.
Graham Ivan Clark, an 18-year-old who prosecutors say was the “mastermind” of the Twitter hack, pleaded guilty to fraud charges in March in a Florida court and agreed to serve three years in prison for minors. Two others, Mason Sheppard and Nima Fazeli, were arrested and charged with serving as an intermediary for Mr. Clark to sell Twitter accounts.
Mr. O’Connor was a well-known figure among hackers dealing with usernames, under the name “PlugWalkJoe”. According to chat logs the hackers shared with The Times last July, Mr. O’Connor briefly interacted with the group, acquiring the @ 6 Twitter account.
At the time, Mr. O’Connor denied any involvement in the Bitcoin scam. “I don’t care,” he said in an interview. “They can come and arrest me. I would laugh at them. I did not do anything.
According to an affidavit submitted by a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who investigated the violation, Twitter logs showed that a Twitter account belonging to Mr. O’Connor viewed multiple accounts, as if he was shopping, during the hack.
Ms Thorne’s Snapchat account was compromised in June 2019, according to the affidavit. The hacker threatened to post nude photos found on the account unless Ms Thorne posted a tweet thanking him for reporting, according to the affidavit.
Instead, Ms Thorne posted the images to Twitter. “I feel disgusting, I feel watched, I feel that someone has taken something from me,” she wrote in a statement accompanying the photos. “I can sleep better tonight knowing that I have regained my power. You can’t control my life, you never will.
In June 2020, Mr. O’Connor made false police reports threatening violence at schools, restaurants, an airport and a residence in Southern California, according to the affidavit. The threats were an attempt to scrutinize a youth who lived in the area and had run into Mr. O’Connor online, according to the affidavit. Mr. O’Connor also sent threat messages and nude photos to the youth, according to the affidavit.
In August, a month after the Twitter breach, hackers took over Ms Easterling’s TikTok account, which had more than 55 million followers. In an apparent reference to Mr. O’Connor’s online nickname, his page has been updated with the message “plugwalkjoe zak n crippin”.
The FBI discovered Ms. Easterling’s account was accessed during the hack by Internet Protocol addresses linked to Mr. O’Connor, according to the affidavit. They also found screenshots of his account recorded on Mr. O’Connor’s Snapchat, according to the affidavit.
Twitter declined to comment. Representatives for Snap, TikTok, Ms Thorne and Ms Easterling did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mr O’Connor, who is British, faces extradition to the United States and will face charges in Northern California. Mr. O’Connor’s lawyer could not be identified immediately.
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