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Major Twitter hack in 2020 results in another arrest

Police in Spain have arrested a 22-year-old British man in connection with a major Twitter hack last year that targeted high-profile accounts as part of a Bitcoin scam.

Joseph O’Connor was picked up by police in the resort town of Estepona about 280 miles south of Madrid following a request by the U.S. authorities to detain the alleged hacker, the Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed on Wednesday, July 21. O’Connor’s detention follows other arrests made last year in connection with the case.

According to the DoJ, O’Connor has been charged with a string of crimes linked to the hack, as well as offenses connected to takeovers of TikTok and Snapchat user accounts. The accused is also charged with cyberstalking a juvenile victim.

Twitter hack

The extraordinarily brazen attack in July 2020 targeted more than 130 Twitter accounts, including those belonging to politicians and celebrities such as Joe Biden (prior to his election as president), former President Barack Obama, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and celebrities Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

The ruse involved the hijacked accounts posting a fake tweet (shown below) encouraging followers to send payments to a Bitcoin wallet, with multiple reports suggesting it received more than $100,000 before the scam was halted.

The perpetrators were able to launch the attack after targeting a number of Twitter employees in a so-called “phone spear phishing attack” that tricked them into believing they were conversing with co-workers. The audacious approach enabled the hackers to obtain information from the victims that opened up Twitter’s internal tools. The hackers could then take over the targeted Twitter accounts and post the fake tweets.

O’Connor’s detainment follows three other arrests in 2020 in connection with the hack, including that of 18-year-old Graham Clark, who in March 2021 was handed a three-year jail term by a Florida court for his role in the crime.

Clark would’ve received a minimum 10-year jail term for the offense, but his conviction as a “youthful offender” meant he was able to escape the harsher sentence.

“Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said at the time.

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