Florida Teen 'Mastermind' Placed Under Arrest for Colossal Twitter Hack
Friday morning, the IRS, FBI, US Secret Service, and Florida law enforcement descended on a 17-years-old Tampa, Florida resident, and placed him under arrest, according to an announcement from the Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren's office.
Authorities claim the man is the "mastermind" behind the most colossal privacy and security breach in the history of Twitter — the same one that took over accounts of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and many more to carry out a massive bitcoin scam.
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Florida teen arrested, considered 'mastermind' behind Twitter hack
As of writing, the teen is in jail and is being charged with more than 30 felonies, including communications fraud, identity theft, organized fraud, and hacking, according to Warren's recently broadcasted news conference.
It's not yet clear whether the 17-year-old is suspected to have accomplices. "I can't comment on whether he worked alone," Warren said. The young man was arrested in his apartment where he lives alone, said authorities, reports The Verge.
UPDATE July 31, 3:25 PM EDT: Florida teen hacker charged as adult
The Florida teen, now in custody, is being charged as an adult, and the ensuing press conference made it clear that in light of how bad the hack could have been — not simply charging based on the more than $100,000 in bitcoin the teen is alleged to have scammed from unwitting Twitter users.
"This could have had a massive, massive amount of money stolen from people, it could have destabilized financial markets within America and across the globe; because he had access to powerful politicians' Twitter accounts, he could have undermined politics as well as international diplomacy," Warren said.
"This is not a game [...] these are serious crimes with serious consequences, and if you think you can rip people off online and get away with it, you'll be in for a rude awakening, a rude awakening that comes in the form of a 6:00 AM knock on your door from federal agents," he said in a later statement.
We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses. For our part, we are focused on being transparent and providing updates regularly.— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) July 31, 2020
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UPDATE July 31, 3:45 PM EDT: Florida teen taken 'without incident'
Sources say the teen was "taken into custody without any incident." His initial court appearance may happen tomorrow morning, said Warren.
Twitter released a statement on the arrest: "We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses. For our part, we are focused on being transparent and providing updates regularly," read the tweet.
UPDATE July 31, 4:00 PM EDT: 'Bit-Con' targeted 'regular Americans'
The colossal hack of Twitter was called a "Bit-Con" in the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office press release, which added that "[t]hese crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they're not the primary victims here. This 'Bit-Con' was designed to steal money from regular Americans from all over the country, including here in Florida," read the press release.
However, as Gen-Z computer programmers learn to code much earlier in their lives than people of earlier generations, one question worth asking is: will this set precedence as a heavy deterrent to future hacks, or is this only a preview of our collective digital future?
"For me, this is the one thing that needs to be done for humans to go to Mars," Franklin Chang-Díaz told Interesting Engineering in an interview.