British man arrested on charges stemming from last year’s Twitter hack

WASHINGTON – A 22-year-old Briton was arrested in Spain on Wednesday on charges related to the hack of Twitter last year that led to the brief seizure of more than 130 accounts, including those of Joe Biden, Bill Gates and Kim Kardashian.

Joseph O’Connor was arrested at the request of US law enforcement, the Justice Department said. He is the fourth person charged in connection with the July 2020 hack, which hijacked high-profile Twitter accounts to post messages requesting donations to a bitcoin wallet for causes such as Covid-19 relief efforts. Federal prosecutors have said the donation requests were a scam.

O’Connor has been indicted in federal court in California with multiple hacking charges related to the attack on Twitter. He is also charged with intrusions related to the appropriation of TikTok and Snapchat user accounts, according to court documents, and is charged with cyberbullying of a minor.

The attack on Twitter allowed hackers to take over a number of accounts; others included were those of Kanye West, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, the CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey and Apple Inc.

The outage, which occurred just months before the presidential election, raised national security concerns among some US officials because of the platform’s role in public discourse, international affairs, and government messages. Twitter declined to comment on the arrest.

The company has said in the past that hackers essentially made their way onto the company’s computer network, calling Twitter employees and using “social engineering” techniques to trick workers into divulging information they shouldn’t have. shared. They then obtained confidential information about how Twitter works and used that knowledge to access other parts of the system, ultimately gaining the ability to bypass Twitter protections and reset passwords for dozens of user accounts.

Last July, weeks after the attack, Graham Ivan Clark, of Tampa, Florida, was arrested and charged with fraud and unauthorized access to computers for his involvement in the scheme. Clark, who was 17 at the time of the attack, pleaded guilty in March. Two others were charged along with Mr. Clark last July.

Prosecutors had described Clark as the ringleader of the operation and said he had earned the equivalent of $ 117,000 in cryptocurrency.

O’Connor had previously been identified by some cybersecurity experts and security journalist Brian Krebs as likely related to the attack. In an interview with the London Times a few days after the attack, O’Connor denied involvement, saying: “I had nothing to do with it.”

From the Archives …

High-profile Twitter accounts, including those of Barack Obama and Elon Musk, were the target of a widespread attack last July that security experts called the worst hacking incident in the company’s recent history. WSJ’s Euirim Choi reported on the attack, which looked different from other security breaches. Photos: Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images, Sean Gallup / Getty Images and Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Write to Dustin Volz on [email protected]

The Twitter trick and its aftermath

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