San Francisco: A UK citizen accused of hacking Twitter accounts as part of a Bitcoin scheme has pleaded guilty to his role in cyber stalking and computer hacking that targeted numerous high-profile social media accounts, including the July 2020 Twitter hack.
Joseph James O’Connor, a.k.a. PlugwalkJoe, 23, was extradited to the US from Spain last month, where he awaited trial for harassing, threatening, and extorting his victims.
According to Gizmodo, the first time O’Connor was arrested was in 2021 for attempting to take control of 130 Twitter accounts, including — US President Joe Biden, American socialite & model Kim Kardashian, and Tesla & Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
O’Connor, in July 2020, wrote on Biden’s account, “All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back double! If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000. Only doing this for 30 minutes. Enjoy!”
Twitter then responded at that time by deactivating all verified accounts and disabling the tweet feature in an attempt to target the hackers.
“We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools,” Twitter’s support team wrote in July 2020.
According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), an FBI investigation found that O’Connor and his co-conspirators were able to transfer control of some Twitter accounts to unauthorised users for a fee.
Moreover, the investigation uncovered that in certain instances, the group exploited the control they had over certain Twitter accounts for personal gain, and engaged in fraudulent activities that impacted other users of the platform.
As part of this, it was discovered that O’Connor had made an agreement to purchase access to a specific account for a sum of $10,000.
“Like many criminal actors, O’Connor tried to stay anonymous by using a computer to hide behind stealth accounts and aliases from outside the US. But this plea shows that our investigators and prosecutors will identify, locate, and bring to justice such criminals to ensure they face the consequences for their crimes,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A Polite, Jr of the DOJ’s Criminal Division said in a statement.
As part of his guilty plea, O’Connor has agreed to pay restitution to all of the victims and forfeit just over $7,94,000. His sentencing is scheduled for June 23 in a district court in New York.