Twitter hacking suspects revealed; Teens involved

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Three men were charged for hacking Twitter accounts of celebrities and politicians in a bitcoin scam worth $100,000.

Hackers sent out fake tweets on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a host of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in one of the most high-profile security breaches in recent years.

They also hacked the accounts of celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West.

The tweets promised to send out $2,000 to an anonymous Bitcoin address for every $1,000 received.

Graham Ivan Clark, the 17 year old who is supposedly the mastermind behind the scam was taken into custody along with Nima Fazeli, 22, and Mason Sheppard, 19 in the California federal court.

Although the case against Mr. Clark was also investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren clarified that his office is prosecuting him in the Florida State Court because, where applicable, Florida law allows juveniles to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases like this.

Twitter previously said hackers used phones to manipulate employees of the social media service into allowing them access. It said hackers targeted “a limited number of employees via a spear-phishing attack on their phones.”

Twitter said that, “This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” and appreciated the swift action of the enforcement team.

The company said the hackers had been able to target other employees who have access to account management software after stealing employee passwords and breaking into Twitter’s networks.

The hackers had targeted 130 accounts out of which they were successful in tweeting from 45 accounts, accessing 36 inboxes of direct messages and downloading data from 7 Twitter accounts.

Internal Revenue Service investigators in Washington were able to locate two of the hackers by reviewing block-chain bitcoin transactions — the database where transactions are registered — even those that the hackers sought to keep secret, said federal prosecutors.

Twitter said it would later have a more thorough report, “given the ongoing investigation into law enforcement.”

The details released by Twitter so far suggest that the hackers have started using the old-fashioned method of talking their way past security.