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Hacker sent to jail for huge 2020 Twitter breach

A British man who took part in a high-profile Twitter hack in 2020 was handed a five-year jail term by a New York federal court on Friday.

Joseph O’Connor, 24, had pled guilty in May to four counts of computer hacking, wire fraud, and cyberstalking. He was also ordered to pay $794,000, the amount that he nabbed in the crypto crime.

O’Connor was one of several men involved in the headline-grabbing ruse two years ago, which targeted more than 130 Twitter accounts, including ones belonging to politicians and celebrities such as Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and celebrities Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

The hack involved posting a fake tweet (below) to the hijacked accounts that encouraged followers to send payments to a Bitcoin wallet.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

To enable the scam, the perpetrators targeted a number of Twitter employees in a so-called “phone spear phishing attack” that had them believe they were conversing with co-workers when in fact they were not.

Having gained their confidence, the hackers were able to obtain information from the victims that opened up Twitter’s internal tools. They were then able to take over the targeted Twitter accounts and tweet the fake posts.

O’Connor was arrested in Spain in July following a detention request from the U.S. authorities. His capture followed three other arrests in 2020 in connection with the crime, one of whom was given a three-year sentence by a U.S. court in March 2021.

In a widely reported statement, U.S. Assistant Attorney-General Kenneth Polite Jr. described O’Connor’s actions as “flagrant and malicious,” adding that he had “harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm.”

The U.S. Department of Justice also revealed that O’Connor had admitted to other hacking crimes, including gaining access to a high-profile TikTok account and stalking a minor, the BBC reported.

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