rainn.png
Saturday October 24th, 2020 10:49PM

3 charged in massive Twitter hack, Bitcoin scam

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MIAMI (AP) — A British man, a Florida man and a Florida teen were identified by authorities Friday as the hackers who earlier this month took over Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around the globe out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin.

Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute him as adult. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release. Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, were charged in California federal court.

In one of the most high-profile security breaches in recent years, hackers sent out bogus tweets on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.

The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.

“There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California said in a news release. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived."

Although the case against the teen was also investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren explained that his office is prosecuting Clark in Florida state court because Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases such as this when appropriate. He added that Clark was the leader of the hacking scam.

“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said.

Security experts were not surprised that the alleged mastermind of the hack is a 17-year-old, given the relative amateur nature both of the operation and the hackers’ willingness afterward to discuss the hack with reporters online.

“I think this is a great case study showing how technology democratizes the ability to commit serious criminal acts,” said Jake Williams, founder of the cybersecurity firm Rendition Infosec. “I’m not terribly surprised that at least one of the suspects is a minor. There wasn’t a ton of development that went into this attack.”

Williams said the hackers were “extremely sloppy” in how they moved the Bitcoin around.

He also said he was conflicted about whether Clark should be charged as an adult.

“He definitely deserves to pay (for jumping on the opportunity) but potentially serving decades in prison doesn’t seem like justice in this case,” William said.

Twitter previously said hackers used the phone to fool the social media company's employees into giving them access. It said hackers targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack.”

“This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.

After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter's systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said.

The hackers targeted 130 accounts. They managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven. Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has said his inbox was among those accessed.

Internal Revenue Service investigators in Washington, D.C., were able to identify two of the hackers by analyzing Bitcoin transactions on the blockchain — the ledger where transactions are recorded — including ones the hackers attempted to keep anonymous, federal prosecutors said.

Spear-phishing is a more targeted version of phishing, an impersonation scam that uses email or other electronic communications to deceive recipients into handing over sensitive information.

Twitter said it would provide a more detailed report later “given the ongoing law enforcement investigation.”

The company has previously said the incident was a “coordinated social engineering attack” that targeted some of its employees with access to internal systems and tools. It didn’t provide any more information about how the attack was carried out, but the details released so far suggest the hackers started by using the old-fashioned method of talking their way past security.

British cybersecurity analyst Graham Cluley said his guess was that a targeted Twitter employee or contractor received a message by phone asking them to call a number.

“When the worker called the number they might have been taken to a convincing (but fake) helpdesk operator, who was then able to use social engineering techniques to trick the intended victim into handing over their credentials,” Clulely wrote Friday on his blog.

It’s also possible the hackers pretended to call from the company’s legitimate help line by spoofing the number, he said.

Fazeli’s father said Friday he hasn’t been able to talk to his son since Thursday.

“I’m 100% sure my son is innocent,” Mohamad Fazeli said. “He’s a very good person, very honest, very smart and loyal.”

“We are as shocked as everybody else,” he said by phone. “I’m sure this is a mix up.”

Attempts to reach relatives of the other two weren't immediately successful. Hillsborough County court records didn't list an attorney for Clark, and federal court records didn't list attorneys for Sheppard or Fazeli.

___

Associated Press Writers Kelvin Chan in London, Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, and Frank Bajak in Boston contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Entertainment, APOnline Celebrity News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
3 charged in massive Twitter hack, Bitcoin scam
Authorities say British man, a Florida man and a Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around the globe out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin
4:17PM ( 4 minutes ago )
Magic's Jonathan Isaac is lone player to stand for anthem
Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic stood for the national anthem before his team’s game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, the lone player or coach in that game who did not kneel as the song was performed
3:59PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Court overturns Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence
A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing
3:59PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Virus rocks MLB: Cards-Brewers off; 2 St. Louis positives
The coronavirus has forced another change in Major League Baseball’s schedule
3:35PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Delayed election results? Maybe, but not because of fraud
Delays caused by an increase in voting by mail may contribute to public doubts about the results
3:31PM ( 51 minutes ago )
US: Snake River dams will not be removed to save salmon
The U.S. government says four huge dams on the Snake River in Washington state will not be removed to help endangered salmon migrate to the ocean
3:17PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Oklahoma murder suspect escapes 12th floor cell using sheets
Authorities say they're seeking an escapee from the Oklahoma County jail in Oklahoma City who used sheets tied together to climb down the outside of the building from a 12th floor cell
1:09PM ( 3 hours ago )
Rent's due, again: Monthly anxieties deepen as aid falls off
The coronavirus pandemic is entering a new month, meaning Americans struggling amid the economic fallout once again have to worry about paying their rent
12:40PM ( 3 hours ago )
Carjacking suspect charged in shooting of 3 Chicago officers
Authorities say a convicted felon on parole has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting of three Chicago officers outside a police station
12:04PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
TV host Regis Philbin buried at Notre Dame, his alma mater
Television host Regis Philbin, who died last week at 88, has been buried at the University of Notre Dame following a private funeral service at his alma mater
10:55AM ( 5 hours ago )
Placido Domingo to receive lifetime award in Austria
Placido Domingo will make his first public appearance since recovering from coronavirus to accept a lifetime achievement award in Austria next week
9:25AM ( 6 hours ago )
Bryan Cranston recovers from COVID-19, donates plasma
Actor Bryan Cranston says he contracted and recovered from COVID-19 and has donated his plasma because it contains antibodies
3:21AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Gaga, Grande top MTV VMA noms; quarantine categories added
It’s raining nominations for Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me” at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, which will present new categories focused on live performances and music videos created at home during the coronavirus pandemic
4:46PM ( 23 hours ago )
Tracy Morgan, wife to divorce after 5 years of marriage
Tracy Morgan and his wife of five years are ending their marriage
5:12PM ( 1 day ago )
McConaughey writing book based on life-changing adventures
Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey didn’t want to write an ordinary celebrity book
4:58PM ( 1 day ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
The Latest: Peru wonders about 27,000 uncounted deaths
Peruvian authorities and the Pan American Health Organization are investigating whether the country failed to count more than 27,000 deaths caused by the coronavirus
3:30PM ( 52 minutes ago )
House Democrats subpoena Pompeo for documents on Biden's son
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents he turned over to a Senate panel that is investigating Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden
3:02PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump, GOP soften on opposition to $600 jobless benefit
The White House and its GOP allies appear to be retreating from their opposition to a $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefit that has propped both the economy and family budgets but is expiring Friday
2:42PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Dr. Fauci: Any crowd without masks is virus risk
Dr. Anthony Fauci is fighting back against questioning from a Republican lawmaker over whether recent protests increase the spread of coronavirus
11:43AM ( 4 hours ago )
Big Tech surge props up Wall Street, though caution reigns
Big Tech continues to steamroll through the pandemic, but much of the rest of Wall Street is struggling on Friday, leaving stock indexes mixed
11:40AM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Dr. Fauci: Thousands signing up for virus trials
Dr. Anthony Fauci says 250,000 people have registered on a National Institutes of Heath website to take part in experimental vaccine trials
11:04AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Magic's Jonathan Isaac is lone player to stand for anthem
Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic stood for the national anthem before his team’s game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, the lone player or coach in that game who did not kneel as the song was performed
3:59PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Court overturns Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence
A federal appeals court on Friday overturned the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing
3:59PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Florida teen charged in massive Twitter hack, Bitcoin theft
Authorities say a Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around the globe out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin
3:56PM ( 26 minutes ago )
Students return to campus amid virus growth in some states
The first wave of college students returning to their dorms aren’t finding the typical mobs of students and parents
3:47PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Oil giants lost billions as pandemic crushed demand for fuel
Two American oil giants lost more than $9 billion in the second quarter as the pandemic kept households on lockdown and the need for oil diminished around the world
3:47PM ( 35 minutes ago )