A citizen of the United Kingdom is accused of hacking over 130 social media accounts, including some belonging to celebrities, lawmakers and corporations.
Joseph O’Connor was apprehended in Estepona, Spain, on Wednesday after U.S. authorities requested his arrest on multiple charges in connection with a Twitter hack in July 2020 that compromised more than a hundred accounts.
O’Connor is also accused of taking over several TikTok and Snapchat accounts as well as cyberstalking a juvenile victim.
The 22-year-old U.K. citizen faces 10 charges in total, including two counts of intentionally accessing a computer without authorization and obtaining information; one count of conspiracy to access a computer with permission with the intent to extort from a person a thing of value; one count of making threatening communications; two counts of cyberstalking; and more.
California investigators started receiving tips about O’Connor, whose online alias is “PlugwalkJoe,” as far back as 2018, according to the criminal complaint. Law enforcement officials identified O’Connor with help from witnesses who had heard his voice on Google calls, and a combination of messages he sent on the social media platform Discord.
“If O’Connor is convicted, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors,” the Justice Department said.
On July 15, 2020, hackers took over the accounts of notable figures such as Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos as well as those of corporations Apple and Uber. The security breach saw the targeted accounts try to persuade followers to engage in a cryptocurrency scam.
“I am giving back to my community due to COVID-19! All Bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled. If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000,” read one tweet from Obama’s account. “Only doing this for the next 30 minutes. Enjoy!”
One analysis from the firm Elliptic found the hackers received $121,000 from over 400 payments to three separate bitcoin addresses. The firm’s co-founder, Tom Robinson, said it was a relatively low sum for an historic attack.
Twitter said at the time it was working with law enforcement and investigating the incident.
“We’re acutely aware of our responsibilities to the people who use our service and to society more generally,” the company wrote in a blog post. “We’re embarrassed, we’re disappointed, and more than anything, we’re sorry.”
The investigation is being led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) San Francisco Division, with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Cyber Unit, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.
The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and the Spanish National Police provided assistance in the investigation of O’Connor and his arrest.
Newsweek reached out to Twitter for comment on O’Connor’s arrest, but didn’t receive a response before publication.
Updated 4:15 p.m ET, with additional information from the criminal complaint against O’Connor.