Twitter hacker behind infamous 2020 breach sentenced to 5 years in prison

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By Webdesk

In 2020, Twitter accounts belonging to Barack Obama, Joe Biden and others were compromised in a major hack. After the accounts of the former and current president — as well as public figures like Elon Musk and Bill Gates — were breached, hackers sent out tweets proclaiming a cryptocurrency scam.

Now, fast forward to Friday, and one of the hackers, Joseph James O’Connor, has been sentenced to five years(opens in a new tab) in prison for cybercrime, the BBC reports. O’Connor must also forfeit at least $794,000 to the victims of his crimes.


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The 24-year-old British citizen, known online as PlugwalkJoe, was extradited to the US from Spain in April. In May, O’Connor pleaded guilty(opens in a new tab) to four cases of computer hacking, wire fraud and cyberstalking, according to Tech Crunch.

O’Connor and fellow hackers used social engineering tactics on Twitter employees to gain access to the network. According to an investigation by the New York Department of Financial Services, they called Twitter employees and claimed to be the IT department(opens in a new tab).

Graham Ivan Clark, another hacker known as Kirk, used that access to hijack and remap Twitter accounts, Tech Crunch reported. Basically, the hackers could access any Twitter account they wanted. (Clark pleaded guilty(opens in a new tab) was charged with fraud in 2021 and was sentenced to three years in prison.) The hackers stole approximately $120,000.

Twitter responded at the time by temporarily blocking anyone from tweeting and resetting passwords:

Twitter said it after the attack enhanced cybersecurity controls(opens in a new tab).

O’Connor called his crimes “stupid and senseless” in court, according to Tech Crunch, and apologized to his victims. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. told the BBC in a statement that O’Connor’s actions were “blatant and vicious” and that he “harassed, threatened and blackmailed his victims, causing significant emotional damage”.

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