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British National Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Twitter Hack and Cryptocurrency Theft

In a significant ruling, a British citizen has received a five-year prison sentence from a New York court for his involvement in a high-profile Twitter hack, which targeted the accounts of prominent American politicians and business figures. This cyber criminal was also found guilty of orchestrating a SIM swap attack, resulting in the theft of a substantial amount of cryptocurrency.

The sentencing follows Joseph James O’Connor’s guilty plea in May in New York, where he admitted to participating in various online schemes. The most notorious of these was the Twitter hack, which involved impersonating influential personalities such as former U.S. President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett. As reported by Bloomberg, these compromised accounts were then utilized to promote a Bitcoin scheme.

O’Connor, also known as “PlugwalkJoe” online, expressed remorse for his actions during the sentencing hearing in Manhattan. He apologized to the victims and admitted his foolish and disgraceful behavior. He sincerely promised never to break the law again, emphasizing his desire to lead a purposeful life instead of the aimless and isolated existence he once pursued.

Taking into account O’Connor’s relatively young age and autism, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff sentenced him to five years in prison, while prosecutors had sought a lengthier term of seven years. Additionally, Rakoff acknowledged the 23 months O’Connor had already served before the sentencing.

In addition to the Twitter hack, O’Connor confessed to stealing over $794,000 from a Manhattan-based cryptocurrency company. This was accomplished through SIM swapping, where he gained control of the company executives’ mobile devices. He agreed to forfeit the stolen amount as part of the guilty plea.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams characterized O’Connor’s actions as an abuse of his advanced technological skills. He detailed the various crimes O’Connor committed, including conducting a complex SIM swap attack, hacking Twitter accounts, intruding into computer systems to take over social media profiles, and even cyberstalking two individuals.

The report also revealed an unsettling incident from the summer of 2020, where O’Connor was “swatting.” He falsely reported to the police that a 16-year-old girl was planning a shooting, subsequently making threats to her family. Similar threatening messages were sent to a high school, a restaurant, and a sheriff’s department.

With this substantial prison sentence, the court has sent a clear message that cybercriminals will face severe consequences for their actions. The case serves as a reminder of the critical importance of robust cybersecurity measures to protect individuals and organizations from such malicious activities.

 

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