Police in Spain have arrested a British man in relation to the hacking of celebrity accounts on Twitter Inc. in 2020.
Joseph James O’Connor, 22, was arrested in Estepona, Spain, by Spanish National Police pursuant to a U.S. request on multiple charges concering the July 2020 hack that saw the compromise of 130 Twitter accounts.
As noted at the time of the hack, compromised accounts included those belonging to Apple Inc., Wendy’s Co., Uber Technologies Inc., Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Kim Kardashian West, Mike Bloomberg and Kanye West. The compromised accounts were used to spam cryptocurrency scams, telling people if they sent a certain amount of bitcoin to a given address, the payment would be doubled and returned. The scam netted an estimated $118,000 in bitcoin payments.
It was later disclosed that of the 130 accounts hacked, 36 of them had their direct messages accessed. Along with pushing cryptocurrency scams, having access to DMs from elected officials or other well-known figures could have lead to blackmail.
Officially the attack involved Twitter employees being targeted in a social engineering attack, although there was also a suggestion at the time that a Twitter employee may have been involved. Reports suggested that an employee was paid to give the hacker access to internal tools.
That O’Connor – known online as “PugWalkJoe,” was involved in the hack comes as no surprise as he was linked to the attack by security researcher Brian Krebs days after the hack. O’Connor was not acting alone and is linked to a group of hackers known as Chuckling Squad. Three other members of the group were charged in relation to the hack in August.
That it has taken a year for U.S. authorities to get Spanish police to arrest O’Connor does come as a surprise, however.
O’Connor did not target Twitter alone. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, O’Connor has also been charged with computer intrusions related to the takeover of TikTok and Snapchat user accounts. Additionally, O’Connor has also been charged with cyberstalking a juvenile victim.
Ten charges in total have been filed against O’Connor, including cyberstalking, accessing a protected computer and extortion.
Image: Shawn Campbell/Flickr
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