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Spanish cops cuff Brit bloke accused of playing role in 2020 celeb Twitter hijacking

'PlugWalkJoe' also said to have meddled with TikTok, SnapChat

The Spanish National Police have, at the request of America, arrested UK citizen Joseph O’Connor in Estepona, Spain, in connection with the July 2020 takeover of more than 130 Twitter accounts.

The US Department of Justice said that, in addition to the alleged Twitter account joyride, O'Connor, 22, has been charged in a federal district court in northern California with computer intrusions tied to the commandeering of TikTok and Snapchat user accounts. He has also been accused of cyberstalking a juvenile, and faces extradition to the United States.

A year ago, the Twitter accounts of various celebrities including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, former US president Barack Obama, and others were briefly commandeered to promote a Bitcoin scam.

Tweets sent from the hijacked accounts urged recipients to send $1,000 to a Bitcoin address with the promise that the account holder would send twice as much back. The address involved received over $117,000 worth of BTC from the credulous before Twitter managed to get things back under control.

Twitter shortly after the incident said social engineering of employees allowed hackers access to its internal tools, which provided them with the means to hijack user accounts.

Two weeks after the July 15, 2020, account takeovers, US authorities charged three people with cybercrime and fraud, one 17 at the time, and in March Graham Clark received a three-year prison sentence for his part in the crime.

Around the time of the incident, O'Connor, said to use the pseudonym PlugWalkJoe, was linked to the account hijackings by independent security reporter Brian Krebs as an alleged member of a SIM swapping group. O'Connor, according to the New York Times, was among those who sought to seize desirable single-character Twitter accounts, such as @6.

In an online interview from the same period, O'Connor told the New York Times that he wasn't worried about the police. "They can come arrest me," he reportedly said. "I would laugh at them. I haven’t done anything.”

The DoJ said O'Connor has been charged with multiple counts of accessing a computer without authorization and obtaining data, attempted extortion, making threats, and cyberstalking.

The criminal complaint against O'Connor, provided to The Register by the Justice Department, includes the affidavit of an FBI agent who describes the probable cause for arrest. We've chosen not to post it due to privacy concerns related to the phone numbers, email addresses, and IP addresses described within. ®

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