UK man guilty of hacking more than 130 celebrity Twitter accounts, including Elon Musk and Bill Gates

O'Connor, who used the alias PlugwalkJoe online, entered a guilty plea to numerous counts of hacking, extortion, stalking, wire fraud, and money laundering. 
Baba Tamim
Hacker at a laptop

Joseph James O'Connor, a British hacker, has pleaded guilty in a New York court to allegations that he broke into more than 130 celebrity Twitter accounts.

He stole $794,000 in cryptocurrencies and hacked the accounts of famous people such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama, multiple media sources reported on Wednesday. 

O'Connor's "criminal activities were flagrant and malicious, and his conduct impacted multiple people's lives," according to Kenneth A. Polite Jr., an assistant attorney general in the criminal division of the U.S. Justice Department. 

"He harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm."

The 23-year-old's involvement in the July 2020 hack led to his arrest in Spain two years ago. 

By enticing the owners' followers to pay them Bitcoin with the prospect of doubling their money, O'Connor and his hacking crew took control of the accounts. 

The gang also gained access to two media figures' social media accounts via a method known as sim card swaps and threatened to post intimate photos and other information.

Most colossal security breach in the history of Twitter

O'Connor, who used the alias PlugwalkJoe online, entered a guilty plea to numerous counts of hacking, extortion, stalking, wire fraud, and money laundering. 

The most serious charges carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence. On June 23, O'Connor is scheduled to receive a sentence. 

The Twitter accounts of Warren Buffett, Kanye West, Michael Bloomberg, Apple, Uber, Jeff Bezos, and Benjamin Netanyahu were also compromised by Bitcoin scammers.

The hack of over 130 Twitter users also included numerous cryptocurrency accounts, including @bitcoin, @coindesk, @ripple, @coinbase, and @binance.

All of these accounts subsequently posted the same statement

"We have partnered with CryptoForHealth and are giving back 5000 BTC to the community," along with a link to a website that we will not share here." 

Graham Ivan Clark, a Florida adolescent who is thought to have been the group's leader, received a three-year sentence in juvenile detention as part of a plea deal in July 2021. 

Clark was only 17 when he was charged and received the maximum punishment permitted by Florida's Youthful Offender Act.

The notorious gang is considered to have caused the most colossal privacy and security breach in the history of Twitter, noted an Interesting Engineering report from 2020.

Elon Musk announces encrypted DMs and more 

​Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Elon Musk, the new CEO of Twitter, who took the reigns in November 2022, suggested that the social media platform would provide direct encrypted messaging as part of his intentions to improve the security of the communication tools.

"With [the] latest version of [the Twitter] app, you can DM reply to any message in the thread (not just [the] most recent) and use any emoji reaction," the tech billionaire tweeted

The "release of encrypted DMs V1.0 should happen tomorrow. This will grow in sophistication rapidly. The acid test is that I could not see your DMs even if there was a gun to my head."