TAMPA — A 17-year-old was behind the Twitter hack that gave him access to the accounts of Bill Gates, Barack Obama and many other celebrities with millions of followers, authorities say.
Graham Ivan Clark was arrested Friday at his Tampa apartment, according to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office.
“He’s a 17 year-old kid who apparently just graduated high school,” said State Attorney Andrew Warren. “But no make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before.”
Clark’s scheme was to steal the identities of prominent people, then post messages in their names directing victims to send Bitcoin to accounts he owned. The state attorney’s office said Friday that he reaped more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in just one day.
As a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is difficult to track and recover if stolen in a scam.
“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said in an online news conference.
He added that Florida law gives prosecutors greater flexibility to try a minor as an adult in a financial fraud case.
“I want to congratulate our federal law enforcement partners—the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the FBI, the IRS, and the Secret Service—as well as the Florida Department of Law enforcement. They worked quickly to investigate and identify the perpetrator of a sophisticated and extensive fraud,” Warren said.
The hacking took place on July 15. At the time, Twitter said it was a “coordinated” attack targeting its employees “with access to internal systems and tools.”
Clark faces charges of one count of organized fraud of more than $50,000, 17 counts of felony communications fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, 10 counts of identity theft and one count for hacking and unlawful access to a computer in furtherance of a scheme to defraud.
He is expected to make a first appearance in court tomorrow.
Clark gained access to Twitter accounts and to the social media platform’s internal controls by compromising a Twitter employee, Warren said. Clark then sold access to those accounts and used the identities of prominent people to solicit money in the form of bitcoin, promising in return he would send back twice as much. He collected the bitcoin and never gave back the money he received.
“This was a massive fraud orchestrated right here in our own back yard and we won’t stand for that,” Warren said.
Clark allegedly tricked people into sending money to him with a similar message on the accounts he hacked into. For presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Clark wrote:
“I am giving back to the community. All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled! If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000. Only doing this for 30 minutes … Enjoy!”
Some of the celebrities who authorities say were hacked by Clark included: Biden, Gates, Obama, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg, Warren Buffet, Wiz Khalifa, Floyd Mayweather, Elon Musk and Kanye West. A handful of companies had their accounts hacked, too, including Apple and Uber.
In an update on its internal investigation on Thursday, Twitter said that the incident targeted employees using a phone spear-phishing attack, according to a news release. At the time, the popular social networking company put a temporary freeze on all “verified” accounts to prevent further fraud from public figures.
Via Tampa Bay Times
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