British man arrested for alleged role in July 2020 Twitter hack

The Spanish National police arrested Joseph O’Connor, 22, in Estonia on Wednesday at the request of U.S authorities for his alleged role in the July 2020 hack of Twitter that compromised more than 130 accounts, including ones belonging to politicians and celebrities.

O’Connor, a citizen of the United Kingdom, is also charged with hacks of TikTok and Snapchat accounts, and cyberstalking of a juvenile victim, the Department of Justice said.

Last summer’s high-profile breach impacted the accounts of then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, former President Obama, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk.

Other billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates were targeted as well. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian West were also hacked. The hackers posted bogus tweets and asked followers of the compromised accounts to send $1,000 in bitcoin to an address in exchange for $2,000.

The fraudulent bitcoin account received more than 400 transfers worth over $100,000 before the operation was shut down.

Last year, Twitter said it had detected what it believed to be “a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools,” adding that it “immediately locked down” the hacked accounts and removed the fraudulent tweets.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on Wednesday’s arrest.

O’Connor is the fourth individual to be charged in connection with last July’s hack. The Department of Justice previously charged three others for their roles in the hack. Last year, Florida teenager Graham Ivan Clark was arrested in Tampa and identified by authorities as the “mastermind” of the operation.

The FBI San Francisco division is leading the investigation with assistance from other U.S agencies. The DOJ said the U.K.’s National Crime Agency and the Spanish National police also helped with the investigation and O’Connor’s arrest.

Andres Triay contributed to this report. 

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