Jail time and a hefty payout for this Twitter hacker, but how did he do it?

A British man who was involved in a widely publicized Twitter hack in 2020 was sentenced to five years in prison by a New York federal court on Friday.

24-year-old Joseph O’Connor had pleaded guilty in May to four counts of murder. related to computer hacking, wire fraud and cyberstalking. In addition to his prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a sum of 794,000 dollarscorresponding to the amount he had obtained in this crypto-currency case.

Jail time and a hefty payout for this hacker acting on Twitter, but how did he do it?

Celebrity accounts targeted

O’Connor was one of a group of individuals involved in this scam that made headlines two years ago, targeting over 130 Twitter accountsincluding those of political figures and celebrities such as :

  • Joe Biden,
  • former President Barack Obama,
  • Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk,
  • Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates,
  • as well as celebrities Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

How did he manage to extort up to $794,000 in Bitcoin?

The hack involved posting a fake tweet (below) on the hacked accounts, encouraging users to make payments to a Bitcoin wallet.

bill gates twitter account hack

To carry out this scam, the perpetrators targeted several Twitter employees as part of a ” phone phishing” which fooled them into thinking they were talking to their colleagues, when in fact they were not.

Once they had gained the trust of their victims, the hackers managed to obtain information enabling them to access Twitter’s internal tools. They then took control of the targeted accounts and broadcast false messages.

Mr. O’Connor was arrested in Spain in July following a detention request issued by U.S. authorities. His arrest follows three other related arrests in 2020, one of which was sentenced to three years in prison by a US court in March 2021.

In a widely circulated statement, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. called Mr. O’Connor’s actions ” flagrant and malicious” adding that he had ” harassed, threatened and extorted his victims, causing them considerable emotional damage” .

The U.S. Department of Justice also revealed that O’Connor had admitted to other acts of hacking, including accessing a high-profile TikTok account and harassing a minor, according to BBC reports.