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British Twitter Hacker Sentenced to Prison in US

UK national Joseph James O’Connor was sentenced to five years in a US prison for hacking into Twitter accounts and stealing cryptocurrency.

A British national has been sentenced to five years in prison in the US for his role in hacking schemes targeting cryptocurrency wallets, Twitter accounts, and other social media accounts.

The man, Joseph James O’Connor, also known as ‘PlugwalkJoe’, 24, was arrested in Spain in July 2021 and extradited to the US in April this year. He pleaded guilty in court in May.

According to court documents, between March 2019 and May 2019, O’Connor and others engaged in a SIM swapping attack resulting in the theft of $794,000 worth of cryptocurrency from a Manhattan-based cryptocurrency company.

As part of the attack, the perpetrators took over the phone numbers of three executives at the victim company to gain access to accounts and computers and steal cryptocurrency from wallets maintained on behalf of two clients.

O’Connor and his co-conspirators attempted to launder the stolen funds through dozens of transactions. Some of the crypto-coins were deposited in wallets controlled by O’Connor.

In July 2020, O’Connor participated in a scheme targeting multiple Twitter accounts, after gaining unauthorized access to internal tools used by the social media platform.

Using these administrative tools, the perpetrators took over multiple high-profile accounts, such as those of Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. The attackers targeted roughly 130 accounts.

According to court documents, O’Connor used SIM swapping to access without authorization two accounts on TikTok and Snapchat, threatening to release sensitive, personal materials about both victims.

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In June and July 2020, O’Connor stalked and threatened a minor, orchestrating a series of swatting attacks on the victim. He made swatting calls and sent swatting messages to the police, a high school, a restaurant, and a sheriff’s department in the victim’s area.

O’Connor pled guilty to conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, wire fraud, and money laundering, computer intrusion, extortion, stalking, and making threats.

He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $794,000 in forfeiture.

Related: Romanian Operator of Bulletproof Hosting Service Sentenced to Prison in US

Related: Former Ubiquiti Employee Who Posed as Hacker Sentenced to Prison

Related: Russian Man Who Laundered Money for Ryuk Ransomware Gang Sentenced

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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