Joseph James “PlugwalkJoe” O’Connor, a 24-year-old from the UK who earned his quarter-hour of fame by collaborating within the July 2020 hack of Twitter, has been sentenced to 5 years in a U.S. jail. Which will appear to be harsh punishment for a short and really public cyber pleasure trip. However O’Connor additionally pleaded responsible in a separate investigation involving a years-long spree of cyberstalking and cryptocurrency theft enabled by “SIM swapping,” a criminal offense whereby fraudsters trick a cellular supplier into diverting a buyer’s telephone calls and textual content messages to a tool they management.
On July 16, 2020 — the day after a few of Twitter’s most recognizable and well-liked customers had their accounts hacked and used to tweet out a bitcoin rip-off — KrebsOnSecurity noticed that a number of social media accounts tied to O’Connor appeared to have inside information of the intrusion. That story additionally famous that because of COVID-19 lockdowns on the time, O’Connor was caught on an indefinite trip at a preferred resort in Spain.
Not lengthy after the Twitter hack, O’Connor was quoted in The New York Instances denying any involvement. “I don’t care,” O’Connor instructed The Instances. “They’ll come arrest me. I’d chortle at them. I haven’t accomplished something.”
Talking with KrebsOnSecurity through Instagram immediate message simply days after the Twitter hack, PlugwalkJoe demanded that his actual identify be saved out of future weblog posts right here. After he was instructed that couldn’t be promised, he remarked that some individuals in his circle of pals had been recognized to rent others to ship bodily beatings on individuals they didn’t like.
O’Connor was nonetheless in Spain a yr later when prosecutors within the Northern District of California charged him with conspiring to hack Twitter. On the similar time, prosecutors within the Southern District of New York charged O’Connor with a powerful array of cyber offenses involving the exploitation of social media accounts, on-line extortion, cyberstalking, and the theft of cryptocurrency then valued at practically USD $800,000.
In late April 2023, O’Connor was extradited from Spain to face fees in america. Two weeks later, he entered responsible pleas in each California and New York, admitting to all ten legal fees levied towards him. On June 23, O’Connor was sentenced to 5 years in jail.
PlugwalkJoe was a part of a group that specialised in SIM-swapping victims to take over their on-line identities. Unauthorized SIM swapping is a scheme through which fraudsters trick or bribe staff at wi-fi telephone firms into redirecting the goal’s textual content messages and telephone calls to a tool they management.
From there, the attackers can reset the password for any of the sufferer’s on-line accounts that enable password resets through SMS. SIM swapping additionally lets attackers intercept one-time passwords wanted for SMS-based multi-factor authentication (MFA).
O’Connor admitted to conducting SIM swapping assaults to take management over monetary accounts tied to a number of cryptocurrency executives in Might 2019, and to stealing digital forex at present valued at greater than $1.6 million.
PlugwalkJoe additionally copped to SIM-swapping his method into the Snapchat accounts of a number of feminine celebrities and threatening to launch nude images discovered on their telephones.
Victims who refused to surrender social media accounts or undergo extortion calls for have been typically visited with “swatting assaults,” whereby O’Connor and others would falsely report a taking pictures or hostage state of affairs within the hopes of tricking police into visiting doubtlessly deadly drive on a goal’s handle.
Prosecutors stated O’Connor even swatted and cyberstalked a 16-year-old lady, sending her nude images and threatening to rape and/or homicide her and her household.
Within the case of the Twitter hack, O’Connor pleaded responsible to conspiracy to commit laptop intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit cash laundering.
To resolve the case towards him in New York, O’Connor pleaded responsible to conspiracy to commit laptop intrusion, two counts of committing laptop intrusions, making extortive communications, two counts of stalking, and making threatening communications.
Along with the jail time period, O’Connor was sentenced to 3 years of supervised launch, and ordered to pay $794,012.64 in forfeiture.
To be clear, the Twitter hack of July 2020 didn’t contain SIM-swapping. Reasonably, Twitter stated the intruders tricked a Twitter worker over the telephone into offering entry to inside instruments.
Three others have been charged together with O’Connor within the Twitter compromise. The alleged mastermind of the hack, then 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clarke from Tampa, Fla., pleaded responsible in 2021 and agreed to serve three years in jail, adopted by three years probation.
This story is nice reminder about the necessity to reduce your reliance on the cell phone firms for securing your on-line identification. This implies lowering the variety of methods your life could possibly be turned the other way up if somebody have been to hijack your cell phone quantity.
Most on-line companies require customers to validate a cell phone quantity as a part of establishing an account, however some companies will allow you to take away your telephone quantity after the very fact. These companies that do you allow you to take away your telephone quantity or disable SMS/telephone requires account restoration in all probability additionally supply safer multi-factor authentication choices, corresponding to app-based one-time passwords and safety keys. Take a look at 2fa.listing for an inventory of multi-factor choices out there throughout a whole lot of well-liked websites and companies.