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A U.K. man pleaded guilty for cyberstalking and his role in multiple computer hacking schemes that included a July 2020 hack of Twitter.
The Department of Justice reported that 23-year-old Joseph O'Connor was extradited to New York for having participated in a variety of crimes associated with exploitation of social media accounts, online extortion, and cyberstalking.
According to CNBC, O'Connor helped orchestrate hacks on accounts belonging to Elon Musk, Joe Biden, and Kanye West. Yahoo also reported that the accounts of Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jeff Bezos, and Michael Bloomberg were all compromised.
The DOJ stated that in July 2020, O'Connor, also known as "PlugwalkJoe," partnered with others to obtain access to Twitter's administrative tools. This allowed the group to take control of certain Twitter accounts, which they then used to defraud other Twitter users or sometimes sell access to some of the accounts. O'Connor himself purchased access to one account for $10,000.
The hack included posting a cryptocurrency scam in which the accounts, appearing to be the true users, asked followers to send Bitcoin to a particular address to have the amount doubled and sent back.
"I'm giving back to my community due to Covid-19," a Tweet from Barack Obama's account read. "All Bitcoin send to my address below will be sent back doubled."
O'Connor also reportedly accessed a TikTok account with millions of followers in August 2020 and used the platform to post self-promoting messages. One of the posts included a video in which O'Connor's voice was reportedly recognizable.
As well, according to the DOJ, O'Connor stalked and threatened an underage victim in June and July 2020. He made fake emergency calls to public authorities claiming that the victim threatened to shoot people. O'Connor also called the same police department and said he was planning to kill multiple people at the victim's address.
He performed the same acts on the same day against a nearby high school, restaurant, and the sheriff's department.
“O’Connor’s criminal activities were flagrant and malicious, and his conduct impacted multiple people’s lives. He harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
"O’Connor has left an impressive trail of destruction in the wake of his wave of criminality,” added U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey for the Northern District of California.
The man was ordered to pay $794,000 in restitution to victims, prosecutors said, according to Yahoo News. He also faces a maximum of 77 years in prison when he goes to sentencing on June 23, 2023.
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