MIAMI — A British man, a Florida man and a Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around globe out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin, authorities said Friday.
Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute him as adult. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release. Meanwhile, Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, were charged in California federal court.
In one of the most high-profile security breaches in recent years, hackers sent out bogus tweets 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. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.
The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.
“There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson for the Northern District of California said in a news release. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.”
The most prominent member of the trio, according to news reports is the “alleged mastermind” (quoting the Daily Beast) 17-year old Graham Ivan Clark:
A Tampa teenage “mastermind” was one of three people charged on Friday for their alleged roles in a huge Twitter hack that targeted some of the world’s wealthiest and most influential people.
The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office filed 30 felony charges against Graham Ivan Clark, 17, for “scamming people across America” in the July 15 attack. The scheme “stole the identities of prominent people” and “posted messages in their names directing victims to send bitcoin” to accounts associated with the Tampa teen, prosecutors said.
“He’s a 17-year-old kid who apparently just graduated high school,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a Friday press conference. “But make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of California charged two others for their role in the hack: Mason “Chaewon” Sheppard, 19, from Bognor Regis, in the United Kingdom; and Nima “Rolex” Fazeli, 22, from Orlando, Florida.
The case rose to greater prominence, not due to the amount of money swindled, but due in large part to the media’s obsession with Twitter. To note, it wasn’t just The Beast who covered the arrest. Breitbart, The Daily Caller and Mediaite also covered the arrest. Even TMZ got in on the act and posted their snarky take on the arrest:
Some of the most high-profile celebs, politicians and business leaders can thank a Florida teen for hacking their Twitter accounts … according to cops, who’ve busted the alleged mastermind.
Twitter says the hackers fooled its employees into handing over high-level administrative credentials over the phone in a “spear-phishing attack,” which allowed the hackers to target other Twitter employees with access to account support tools and ultimately tweet from the celeb accounts.
Kids these days.
We’ll continue to track the case as it moves closer to trial.