Teen responsible for major Twitter hack to serve three years in prison
A teenager responsible for masterminding a massive bitcoin scam last year that involved hacking Twitter accounts for various politicians and other high-profile figures has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Graham Clark, 18, agreed to a deal with prosecutors to serve three years in prison after pleading guilty to various fraud charges connected to the July 2020 hack, officials announced Tuesday.
Clark, who was arrested last year at the age of 17, was sentenced as a minor and will serve time in a juvenile facility followed by three years of probation, with a minimum sentence of 10 years if he breaks the probation.
Clark was charged with using a variety of hacking and social engineering techniques to gain access to dozens of high-profile Twitter accounts and ask followers to send bitcoin to a cryptocurrency account.
Among the verified accounts hacked were those of President Biden, former President Obama, Bill Gates and Elon Musk.
Clark was able to raise 12.86 bitcoin, the equivalent of more than $117,000 at the time, through the scheme. All of the funds have since been returned to the victims.
“He took over the accounts of famous people, but the money he stole came from regular, hard-working people,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences. In this case, we’ve been able to deliver those consequences while recognizing that our goal with any child, whenever possible, is to have them learn their lesson without destroying their future,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Justice and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) also agreed to the plea deal Clark took.
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen on Wednesday praised the work of investigators in the case.
“I thank our FDLE agents and federal partners for their work quickly unraveling this case and hope it serves as a warning to potential hackers that if you commit a computer crime, our FDLE agents will find you,” Swearingen said in a statement.
The plea deal comes after Clark initially pleaded not guilty to 30 felony charges, including organized fraud, communications fraud, identity theft and hacking, all of which carried potential fines of more than $100,000.
Both the FBI and Twitter launched investigations into the hack last year, with Twitter concluding that Clark used social engineering to target Twitter employees and gain access to their accounts and the accounts that posted the bitcoin scam.
“This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” Twitter wrote in a blog post at the time of the hack. “This was a striking reminder of how important each person on our team is in protecting our service. We take that responsibility seriously and everyone at Twitter is committed to keeping your information safe.”
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