Briton pleads guilty to Twitter hack that included Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk

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A 23-year-old British man has pleaded guilty to hacking into more than 100 Twitter accounts, including those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk, in one of the biggest hacks in social media history.

Joseph James O’Connor, also known as PlugwalkJoe, pleaded guilty in New York on Tuesday to his role in the July 2020 hacking, in addition to cyberstalking and multiple other schemes.

O’Connor was extradited from Spain on April 26 to face charges which carry a total maximum sentence of more than 70 years in prison.

According to the US Department of Justice, O’Connor was charged alongside compatriot Mason Sheppard of Bognor Regis, West Sussex, and two Americans, Graham Ivan Clark and Nima Fazeli.

US President Joe Biden inspects the guard of honour during his visit to Aras an Uachtarain, in Phoenix Park, Dublin, on day three of his visit to the island of Ireland
Joe Biden was among the high-profile Twitter accounts hacked by O’Connor and his co-conspirators (Brian Lawless/PA)

On Tuesday, assistant attorney general Kenneth A Polite Jr of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division described O’Connor’s criminal activities as “flagrant and malicious” and said his conduct “impacted multiple people’s lives”.

The attorney added: “He harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm.

“Like many criminal actors, O’Connor tried to stay anonymous by using a computer to hide behind stealth accounts and aliases from outside the United States.

Screen grab taken from the twitter account of Kanye West after a number of high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of Barack Obama, Elon Musk and Kanye West, were hacked as part of a widespread cryptocurrency scam in 2020
Screen grab taken from the Twitter account of Kanye West, now legally known as Ye, after a number of high-profile Twitter accounts were hacked as part of a widespread cryptocurrency scam in 2020 (Twitter/PA)

The US justice department said O’Connor had participated in the exploitation of social media accounts, as well as online extortion and cyberstalking.

The hackers used social engineering tricks to get access to the Twitter accounts and send out tweets asking followers to send bitcoin to an account, promising to double their money.

The 23-year-old also pleaded guilty to other hacking crimes including gaining access to a high-profile TikTok account.

The US justice department said he had also used technology to stalk a minor.

O’Connor will be sentenced on June 23.

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