WASHINGTON — Police in Spain arrested a British man Wednesday on U.S. charges accusing him of hacking the Twitter accounts of several prominent Americans and a foreign leader last year.
The Justice Department said 22-year-old Joseph O’Connor was arrested in the Spanish coastal resort city of Estepona, after U.S. authorities charged him with hacking into more than 130 Twitter accounts. He was also charged with intruding into TikTok and Snapchat accounts and cyberstalking a juvenile.
The Twitter attack last July targeted the accounts of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former president Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, investment guru Warren Buffet, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then Israel’s prime minister.
Accounts of several celebritieswere targeted, including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Once the fake messages were discovered, Twitter shut down the accounts, as well as the accounts of all other verified users, for several hours.
Messages on the hacked accounts said, “I am giving back to the community,” and urged followers to send bitcoins to a specified address. The fake message on Elon Musk’s account, for example, claimed that he would double any payment made within an hour. Federal prosecutors said the scam netted nearly $120,000 from 415 separate transfers.
Previously, scammers have used the names and profile pictures of people like Musk to lure people into sending them cryptocurrency. But all of the accounts in this case were genuine and belonged to the people targeted.
O’Connor now faces a raft of federal charges for participating in the attack, and the US will seek his extradition.
A Florida teenager, 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark, was arrested last August and charged with playing a central role in the Twitter hacking. He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced to three years in prison.