November 30, 2023

A 22-year-old man was arrested Wednesday in Spain in connection with hacking more than 100 Twitter accounts last July, making him the fourth defendant in the incident that resulted in the social media service being temporarily shut down.

The man, Joseph O’Connor, is charged with hacking, extortion and cyberstalking related to Twitter in the US and is accused of hacking popular creator Addison Rae Easterling’s TikTok account and actor Bella Thorne’s Snapchat account. announced the Ministry of Justice.

The Twitter incident began when the hackers connected on an online forum last year that focused on buying and selling rare usernames, some of those involved told the New York Times at the time. They then broke into Twitter’s systems by tricking employees into providing login information, according to legal records. The hackers used an administrative tool to take over accounts from political figures and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Kanye West and Elon Musk, and use the accounts to carry out a Bitcoin scam, the files say.

Graham Ivan Clark, an 18-year-old who prosecutors said was the “mastermind” of the Twitter hack, pleaded guilty to fraud in a Florida court in March and agreed to serve three years in juvenile prison. Two others, Mason Sheppard and Nima Fazeli, were arrested and charged with acting as middlemen for Mr Clark to sell the Twitter accounts.

Mr. O’Connor was a well-known figure among the hackers who traded by username under the name “PlugWalkJoe”. According to chat logs the hackers shared with the Times last July, Mr. O’Connor briefly interacted with the group and acquired the Twitter handle @ 6.

At that time, Mr. O’Connor denied involvement in the Bitcoin scam. “I don’t care,” he said in an interview. “You can arrest me. I would laugh at her. I haven’t done anything. “

According to an affidavit from a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent investigating the breach, Twitter’s logs showed that Mr. O’Connor’s Twitter account viewed multiple accounts as if they were shopping during the hack.

Ms. Thorne’s Snapchat account was compromised in June 2019, according to an affidavit. The hacker threatened to post nude photos found on the account unless Ms. Thorne posted a tweet thanking them for returning her account, the affidavit says.

Instead, Ms. Thorne posted the pictures on Twitter. “I feel disgusting, I feel watched, I have the feeling that someone has stolen something,” she wrote in a statement accompanying the photos. “I can sleep better tonight knowing that I have regained my power. You can’t control my life, you never will. “

In June 2020, Mr. O’Connor created false police reports threatening violence at schools, restaurants, an airport and a residence in Southern California, the affidavit said. The threats were an attempt to investigate a youth who lived in the area who had bumped into Mr. O’Connor online, the affidavit said. Mr. O’Connor also sent threatening messages and nude photos to the youth, the affidavit says.

In August, a month after the Twitter break-in, hackers took over Ms. Easterling’s TikTok account, which had more than 55 million followers. In an obvious reference to Mr. O’Connor’s online moniker, their page was updated with the message “plugwalkjoe zak n crippin”.

The FBI found that Ms. Easterling’s account was accessed during the hack through internet protocol addresses linked to Mr. O’Connor, the affidavit said. They also found screenshots of their account stored on Mr. O’Connor’s Snapchat, the affidavit said.

Twitter declined to comment. Representatives from Snap, TikTok, Ms. Thorne and Ms. Easterling did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The British O’Connor faces extradition to the United States and charges in Northern California. One of Mr. O’Connor’s attorneys could not be identified immediately.