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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Teen who hacked major Twitter accounts pleads “not guilty”

A US teen pleads not guilty in major Twitter accounts hacking case, this is the most elaborate hacking stunt pulled off on the platform.

Major Twitter accounts hacking teen has pled not guilty Tuesday to allegations he hijacked celebrity accounts to swindle people out of more than $100,000 in a cryptocurrency scheme.

Clark was arrested on Friday in Tampa, and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting him as an adult, a news release said.

Influential Twitter accounts hacking teen pled not guilty

The 17-year-old Tampa, Florida resident pled not guilty before a state court, during a short hearing conducted via videoconference, according to the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.
He was arrested Friday along with two others, aged 19 and 22, one of whom lives in Britain, and was charged with cyber fraud.

Clark is scheduled for a bond hearing on Wednesday. He remains in the Hillsborough County Jail with bail set at $725,000, according to court records.

Read more: Scammers hack Twitter accounts in massive breach

As part of the high-profile security breach, bogus tweets were sent out 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. Accounts of celebrity couple Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West were also hacked. Twitter accounts of such influential people being hacked send shockwaves throughout the community, raising alarms about the security of the site.

“It cannot be overstated how troubling this incident is, both in its effects and in the apparent failure of Twitter’s internal controls to prevent it,” Senator Roger Wicker wrote to the firm.

Investigators viewed the 17-year-old as the mastermind behind the mid-July cyberattack that rocked Twitter.

It was, by all accounts, a sophisticated attack that required technical skills and an ability to trick and deceive to pull off the scam. Some security professionals were impressed, the attack was compared to one that had the finesse and professionalism of a well-resourced nation-state attacker.

The attack could have been worse

The attack could have been much worse. Instead of pushing a scam that promised to “double your money,” Clark and his compatriots could have wreaked havoc. In 2013, hackers seized control of the Associated Press’ Twitter account and tweeted a fake bomb attack on the White House, sending the markets plummeting — only to quickly recover after the all-clear was given. Twitter accounts have had a history of being hacked but this is one of the biggest hacks ever conducted.

Dmitri Alperovitch, who co-founded cyber-security company CrowdStrike, told Reuters news agency: “This appears to be the worst hack of a major social media platform yet.”

It is surprising that such a small number of individuals could carry out such a large hack Twitter-accounts hack.

Read more: Parler: is this the alternative to Twitter’s ‘free speech’?

The hackers “targeted a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack,” according to a Twitter Support statement.
The massive hack of users from Elon Musk to Joe Biden affected at least 130 accounts, with tweets posted by the usurpers duping people into sending $100,000 in Bitcoin, supposedly in exchange for double the amount sent.

“Everyone is asking me to give back,” a tweet from Mr Gates’ account said. “You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000.”

The official Twitter accounts of Apple, Uber, Kanye West, Bill Gates, Barack Obama and others were also affected.

Teen could spend life behind bars

He is charged with 17 counts of communications fraud, 11 counts of fraudulent use of personal information, and one count each of organised fraud of more than $5,000 and accessing computers or electronic devices without authority. The brief hearing in Tampa took place on Tuesday via the video conferencing service Zoom.

Hackers who accessed dozens of high-profile Twitter accounts gained access to the system with an attack that tricked a handful of employees into giving up their credentials, according to a company update.

Read more: Turkey rejects Twitter ‘smear’ campaign

These “double your Bitcoin” scams have been a persistent pest on Twitter for years but this was unprecedented with the actual accounts of public figures hijacked and on a large scale.

The fact that so many different users have been compromised at the same time has raised questions about the security of Twitter accounts and if this is a problem with Twitter’s platform itself.

The incident has raised concerns about the security of the platform increasingly used for conversations on politics and public affairs, particularly as the US presidential election in November approaches.

But with control of some of the world’s most popular Twitter accounts, Clark was for a few hours in July one of the most influential people in the world. If found guilty, the teenager could spend his better years behind bars.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk