Briton pleads guilty to hacking stars’ Twitter accounts to steal Bitcoin
A British man has pleaded guilty to hacking Twitter accounts – including Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk – in a bid to con people out of Bitcoin.
Joseph O’Connor, 23, also admitted other hacking schemes, cyberstalking a young victim, and money laundering charges.
He was extradited from Spain to New York last month and faces as much as 77 years in jail when he is sentenced on 23 June.
O’Connor and his co-conspirators stole more than $794,000 (£629,000) of cryptocurrency – money he must give back to victims, according to prosecutors.
Twitter had to freeze some of the stars’ accounts after the tweets in July 2020 urged people to send $1,000 in Bitcoin to receive double back.
He also hacked accounts belonging to Kanye West, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Twitter confirmed 130 accounts were targeted, with 45 used to send tweets.
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The company said the hackers got access via a social engineering attack – a breach based on convincing someone to provide access, rather than finding flaws in software.
Twitter said at the time that “a small number of employees” were called over the phone and tricked into providing their login credentials.
The amateur quality of the scam surprised many compared with how effective the attackers had been at gaining access.
“O’Connor’s criminal activities were flagrant and malicious, and his conduct impacted multiple people’s lives,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite.
“He harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm.”
O’Connor, who was known online by the handle PlugWalkJoe and previously gave interviews to the media regarding the hack, was arrested in July 2021 in Spainat the request of the FBI.