Florida teen arrested, charged with being “mastermind” of Twitter hack

Extreme close-up image of the Twitter logo on the screen of a smartphone.

Government on Friday charged 3 other folks with orchestrating this month’s epic hack of Twitter and the use of it to generate greater than $100,000 in a Bitcoin rip-off promoted by means of hijacked accounts of politicians, executives, and celebrities.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco charged Mason Sheppard, 19, Nima Fazeli, 22, and an unnamed juvenile within the July 15 breach. Prosecutors in Florida, the place the juvenile defendant lives, known him as 17-year-old Graham Clark and charged him with 30 criminal fees. Federal prosecutors stated that Sheppard resided in Bognor Regis, in the UK and Fazeli used to be from Orlando, Florida.

The trio stand accused of the use of social engineering and different ways to realize get entry to to interior Twitter methods. They then allegedly used their keep watch over to take over what Twitter has stated have been 130 accounts. A small sampling of the account holders integrated former Vice President Joe Biden, philanthropist and Microsoft founder and previous CEO, and Chairman Invoice Gates, Tesla founder Elon Musk, and dad celebrity Kanye West.

The defendants, prosecutors alleged, then brought about the high-profile accounts—lots of them with thousands and thousands of fans—to advertise scams that promised giant returns if other folks deposited bitcoins into attacker-controlled wallets. The scheme generated greater than $117,000. The hackers additionally took over accounts with brief person names, which in hacker circles are extremely coveted.

“Those crimes have been perpetrated the use of the names of well-known other folks and celebrities, however they are no longer the principle sufferers right here,” stated Andrew Warren, Hillsborough State Legal professional Andrew Warren. “This ‘Bit-Con’ used to be designed to scouse borrow cash from common American citizens from all over the place the rustic, together with right here in Florida. This huge fraud used to be orchestrated proper right here in our yard, and we can no longer stand for that.”

Painstaking reconnaissance, social engineering, and sparsely timed phishing

A safety researcher who has been actively running with the FBI at the investigation into this month’s breach informed Ars that the hack used to be the results of painstaking analysis into Twitter staff, the social engineering of them by means of telephone, and sparsely timed phishing.

Allison Nixon, leader analysis officer at safety company Unit 221B, stated proof accrued thus far displays that Clark and hackers he labored with began by means of scraping LinkedIn searching for Twitter staff who have been more likely to have get entry to to the account equipment. The usage of equipment that LinkedIn makes to be had to recruiters, the attackers then bought the ones staff’ mobile phone numbers and different non-public touch data.

The attackers then known as the workers and directed them to a phishing web page that mimicked an interior Twitter VPN. Detailed paintings histories and different worker information the attackers bought from public resources allowed the attackers to pose as individuals who have been licensed Twitter workforce. Paintings-at-home preparations brought about by means of the COVID-19 pandemic additionally averted the workers from the use of the use of commonplace procedures similar to face-to-face touch, to make sure the identities of peers.

With the arrogance of the centered staff, the attackers directed them to a phishing web page that mimicked an interior Twitter VPN. The attackers then bought credentials because the centered staff entered them. To circumvent two-factor authentication protections Twitter has in position, the attackers entered the credentials into the actual Twitter VPN portal inside seconds of the workers coming into them into the faux one. As soon as the worker entered the one-time password, the attackers have been in.

Nixon and Unit 221B leader prison officer Mark Rasch laid out an outline of the hackers’ techniques, ways, and procedures in a put up printed in a while after the costs have been filed.

Sheppard is charged with one rely each and every of helping and abetting intentional get entry to of a secure laptop and acquiring
data, conspiracy to devote cord fraud, and conspiracy to devote cord fraud. Fazeli faces a unmarried rely of laptop intrusion. Hillsborough County prosecutors, who known as Clark the mastermind of the breach, charged him with one rely of arranged fraud, 11 general counts of fraudulent use of private data, one rely of gaining access to a pc or digital tool with out authority, and 17 counts of communications fraud. Clark’s prosecution is happening in Tampa, the place he lives, “as a result of Florida legislation lets in minors to be charged as adults in monetary fraud circumstances similar to this when suitable,” Warren’s place of job stated.

This can be a growing tale and might be up to date.

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