British man arrested in Spain for his alleged role in hacking high-profile Twitter accounts

A British man has been arrested in Spain on suspicion of hacking the Twitter accounts of about 130 celebrities last summer.

Joseph O’Connor has been arrested in the Spanish coastal town of Estepona on an international arrest warrant, US Department of Justice He said on Wednesday.

He was indicted in the United States for his alleged involvement in a large-scale hack of Twitter that led to the hacking of the accounts of a number of prominent American politicians, celebrities and tech tycoons in July 2020.

Prosecutors also accused O’Connor of hacking accounts on social media apps TikTok and Snapchat, and of “cyber stalking an event.”

A criminal complaint was filed in federal court in the Northern District of California. O’Connor is formally charged with online stalking, making extortionary and threatening communications, and intentionally gaining access to a computer without permission.

O’Connor, better known by the internet pen name PlugWalkJoe, has denied wrongdoing in police interviews.

During the high-profile security breach, fake tweets were sent from a number of high-profile social media accounts, urging followers to send them Bitcoin payments.

Some accounts tweeted “I have decided to help my community. All bitcoins sent to my address below will be doubled.”

Among other things, the cyber attack targeted then-US presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as former President Barack Obama, and another candidate, Mike Bloomberg.

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk also saw their accounts hacked.

The messages were quickly deleted, but investigators estimate that the scam would have allowed hackers to receive more than $100,000 in cryptocurrency.

Twitter said hackers targeted a handful of employees with a phone phishing operation to compromise the platform’s two-factor authentication system.

In September, the social network announced that it had beefed up the security of celebrity accounts.

In March, a Florida teen pleaded guilty to masterminding the operation and was sentenced to three years in prison. Court papers filed last year said the conspiracy arose in an online forum for people looking to obtain valuable and original social media usernames.

There is an underground marketplace to steal and trade coveted handles on Twitter and other social media sites like Instagram, or the gaming worlds of Minecraft and Fortnite. Earlier this year, Twitter said it was cracking down on accounts linked to trading these usernames.

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