Twitter and Twitterati went berserk on July 15, 2020, when a high-profile hack compromised nearly 130 Twitter accounts including verified accounts of known personalities like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and corporate accounts of Apple, Uber and many more. It was a one of a kind hack, and ever since, it has been termed as “The Greatest Twitter Hack,” simply because multiple verified accounts were hacked simultaneously for scamming people.
The FBI Crackdown
The cybercriminals quite literally basked in the glory of their achievements as they successfully collected more than $118,000 by scamming people. However, their happiness was cut short by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). With regard to the case, the FBI has now arrested a 17-year-old, Graham Ivan Clark, a resident of Tampa, Florida, and pressed 30 counts of felony charges against him for perpetrating the Twitter hack. The FBI also found out that there were two more people, 19-year-old Mason John Sheppard from the U.K. and 22-year-old Nima Fazeli from Orlando, Florida, who acted as accomplices to Clark.
This is not a game… these are serious crimes with serious consequences.
– Andrew Warren, Florida State Attorney
Things We Now Know
- FBI has arrested Graham Ivan Clark and pressed 30 charges of Felony against him including organized fraud, communications fraud, identity theft, and hacking.
- Clark had two more accomplices, a 19-year-old Mason John Sheppard from the U.K. and 22-year-old Nima Fazeli from Orlando.
- The hack reportedly began on May 3, 2020, when Clark, aka Kirk#5270 (Discord username), through social engineering means convinced a Twitter employee that he was a colleague of his and required credentials to access the internal systems of Twitter for certain work.
- Clark impersonated himself later as a Twitter employee and approached two other hackers (Fazeli aka “Rolex#037” and Sheppard aka “ever so anxious#0001” – both are Discord usernames).
- He modified the settings of an account owned by Rolex#037 as a proof-of-concept and sold him access to the Twitter account @foreign.
- Similarly, Clark also sold Sheppard access to multiple Twitter accounts, such as @xx, @dark, @vampire, @obinna, and @drug
- The FBI tracked the trio from various sources.
- It used data shared on social media and news outlets to get chat logs and user details from Discord.
- They further obtained data from Coinbase about the Bitcoin addresses involved in the hacks.
- After correlating the data, they found that unknowingly some of the culprits had used their original driving licenses and email IDs to register with cryptocurrency exchanges for withdrawing the scammed money.
“This is not an ordinary 17-year-old”
Andrew Warren, Florida state attorney, in a press conference said, “This is not an ordinary 17-year-old. 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. This is not a game… these are serious crimes with serious consequences.”
According to the officials, Clark is charged as an adult in the State of Florida and shall get sentenced accordingly, if found guilty in any of his 30 charges. Similarly, Fazeli faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, if found guilty for one count of computer intrusion. However, Sheppard is being charged on three counts, which include computer intrusion, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. The maximum for these crimes is a 20-year in a prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.