Man arrested in Bognor Regis along with two others in Florida over hack that compromised dozens of prominent Twitter accounts to spread Bitcoin scam
A man living in Bognor Regis, on the south coast, has been arrested along with two others over a major hack of Twitter last month.
The attack compromised the accounts of a number of prominent U.S. individuals, including former president Barack Obama, presidential candidate Joe Biden and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, using them to spread an apparent Bitcoin scam.
Law enforcement authorities in California filed felony charges against Mason Sheppard, 19, while the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) confirmed it searched a property in Bognor Regis along with police on Friday.
A teenager in Tampa, described as the hack’s organiser, was arrested “without incident” at his apartment on Friday morning by FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents, and faces 30 counts of felony.
Andrew Warren, state attorney for Tampa and Florida’s Hillsborough County, said the 17-year-old was the “mastermind” of the complex hack.
The FBI and the US Department of Justice are to coordinate with the Florida state attorney’s office to prosecute the teenager in Florida.
The teenager can’t be charged as an adult under federal law, but Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in certain cases of financial fraud, Warren said.
“We see a lot of people who are extremely sophisticated and savvy with computers at a young age,” Warren told the Washington Post.
The teenager faces one count of organised fraud, one count of accessing a computer or electronic device without authority, one count of fraudulent use of personal information, 10 counts of fraudulent use of personal information and 17 counts of communications fraud.
“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here,” Warren said. “This ‘Bit-Con’ was designed to steal money from regular Americans from all over the country, including here in Florida.
“This massive fraud was orchestrated right here in our backyard, and we will not stand for that.”
US Attorney David L Anderson said there was a “false belief” that computer attacks could be carried out without consequences.
“Criminal conduct over the internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it,” he said.
“In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”
Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, was also charged on Friday, according to the US attorney’s office for the Northern District of California.
Fazeli faces charges of aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer, while Sheppard is accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.
The investigation is ongoing, according to FBI San Francisco assistant special agent in charge Sanjay Virmani.
“Our goal was to identify those responsible, put a stop to their illegal activity, and hold them responsible for these crimes,” Virmani said in a statement.
“Today’s arrests represent just the first step for law enforcement. Our investigation will continue to identify anyone else who may have been involved in these crimes.”
Twitter said in a statement: “We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses.
“For our part, we are focused on being transparent and providing updates regularly.”
Following the attack, Twitter said hackers had targeted its employes in order to gain access to internal systems and tools.
It said “significant steps” had been taken to limit access to such tools while the company’s investigation continued.