On May 9, the Department of Justice announced Joseph James O’Connor, a 23-year-old U.K. citizen, pleaded guilty in New York to his role in cyberstalking and multiple schemes that involve computer hacking, including the July 2020 hack of Twitter.
O’Connor, aka PlugwalkJoe, was extradited from Spain to the United States on April 26. Prosecutors said his schemes included gaining unauthorized access to social media accounts on Twitter in July 2020 as well as a TikTok account in August 2020. Along with his co-conspirators, O’Connor stole at least $794,000 worth of cryptocurrency.
The 2020 Twitter attack hijacked a variety of verified accounts, including those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Kanye West, and Elon Musk who now owns Twitter.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division described O’Connor’s conduct as “flagrant and malicious” and noted that it “impacted multiple people’s lives.” Attorney Polite added “he harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm. Like many criminal actors, O’Connor tried to stay anonymous by using a computer to hide behind stealth accounts and aliases from outside the United States.”
In two different cases, O’Connor pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, two counts of committing computer intrusions, making extortive communications, two counts of stalking, making threatening communications, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. O’Connor also agreed to forfeit the $794,012.64 and pay restitution to the victims. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 23, and faces a total maximum penalty of 77 years in prison.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman assist businesses of all types and sizes in connection with Data/Cyber Security matters, including breach response, breach notification, and resulting civil litigation. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.