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British Citizen Pleads Guilty to High-Profile Twitter Hacks and Crypto Theft

Key Takeaways
  • SIM-swap fraud targets crypto holders through hacked Twitter accounts, posing a significant risk to digital assets
  • Joseph James O'Connor's guilty plea underscores the need for enhanced security measures and vigilance in the cryptocurrency industry
British Citizen Plea

Joseph James O'Connor, a British citizen, has recently pleaded guilty to engaging in computer intrusion and stealing cryptocurrencies through the use of SIM-swap fraud. 

The case involves a series of high-profile Twitter account hacks that took place in 2020, targeting notable individuals such as Elon Musk and Michael Bloomberg. O'Connor and his accomplices utilized the compromised Twitter accounts to send out Bitcoin links, promising unsuspecting victims high returns in a short period.

What set this particular scam apart from others was the fact that the fraudsters gained access to the actual accounts of these prominent individuals. In addition to the Twitter hacks, O'Connor and his associates conducted a SIM-swap fraud scheme that affected three executives of a wallet company. Through these intrusions, they managed to drain cryptocurrency from the wallets of two clients.

To cover their tracks, the criminals engaged in money laundering activities, executing various transactions and converting a portion of the stolen funds into Bitcoin. It was discovered that some of the pilfered cryptos ended up in a personal exchange account under O'Connor's name.

O'Connor, also known as PlugwalkJoe, further demonstrated his involvement in cybercrimes by hacking a Snapchat account through SIM swapping. Additionally, he endangered one of his victims through a tactic known as swatting, which involves making false emergency calls to law enforcement, resulting in the victim being targeted for a crime they did not commit.

As a consequence of his actions, O'Connor now faces a potential prison sentence of up to 77 years. His guilty plea encompasses charges related to computer intrusion, extortive communications, and making threatening communications. Notably, O'Connor's cyber scam was deemed relatively unsophisticated by experts. Alex Stamos from the Stanford Internet Observatory pointed out that the scammers' request for Bitcoin donations revealed a lack of sophistication.

During the investigation, the New York Times corroborated the involvement of four individuals by linking their social media accounts to their cryptocurrency addresses. One of the alleged accomplices, a pseudonymous Discord user is known as Kirk, reportedly sold Twitter handles in exchange for Bitcoin to demonstrate his access to Twitter's internal systems.

O'Connor, seemingly dismissive of the consequences, even purchased the Twitter handle "@6," boldly stating, "They can come to arrest me. I would laugh at them. I haven't done anything."

The sentencing for Joseph James O'Connor is scheduled for June 23. In addition to facing a potentially lengthy prison term, he will also be required to forfeit the stolen cryptocurrency as part of the legal proceedings.

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