UPDATE: Saturday August 1, 3.07pm: A 17-year-old from Tampa was arrested on Friday July 31 at his home in Greater Northdale, according to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office. The two others charged Friday are 22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard of the United Kingdom, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California.
Graham Ivan Clark was at the center of a Twitter hack scheme which gave him and two others access to the high-profile accounts of Bill Gates, Barack Obama and many other celebrities with millions of followers, authorities say.
Clark faces state charges and will be tried in Hillsborough County because he is a juvenile, federal authorities said. The other two men face federal charges in the Northern District of California.
“He’s a 17 year-old kid who apparently just graduated high school,” said State Attorney Andrew Warren of Clark during a Friday news conference. “But no make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before.”
Twitter says hackers “manipulated” some of its employees to access accounts in a high-profile attack on the social media company, including those of Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.
In a report by AFP on Saturday July 18, posts trying to dupe people into sending the hackers Bitcoin were tweeted by the official accounts of Apple, Uber, Bill Gates and many others on Wednesday, forcing Twitter to lock large numbers of accounts in damage control.
More than $100,000 worth of the virtual currency was sent to email addresses mentioned in the tweets, according to Blockchain.com, which monitors crypto transactions.
“We know that they accessed tools only available to our internal support teams to target 130 Twitter accounts,” said a statement posted on Saturday on Twitter’s blog.
For 45 of those accounts, the hackers were able to reset passwords, login and send tweets, it added, while the personal data of up to eight unverified users was downloaded.
Twitter locked down affected accounts and removed the fraudulent tweets. It also shut off accounts not affected by the hack as a precaution.
Most of those have now been restored, Twitter said on Saturday.
The attack was carried out by a group of young friends — one who lives with his mother — with no links to state or organized crime, The New York Times reported on Friday July 17.
The paper said it interviewed four people who participated in the hacking, who shared logs and screenshots backing up their accounts of what happened.
The young hackers said a mysterious user who went by the name “Kirk” initiated the scheme with a message and was the one with access to Twitter accounts.
They added they were only involved in taking control of lesser-known but desirable Twitter accounts, such as an “@” sign and single letters or numbers that could easily be sold, according to the report.
The hackers maintained they stopped serving as middlemen for “Kirk” when high-profile users became targets.
President Donald Trump’s account, which has 83.5 million followers, was not targeted.
“The president will remain on Twitter,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. “His account was secure and not jeopardized during these attacks.”
The hack has raised questions about Twitter’s security as it serves as a megaphone for politicians ahead of November’s election.
Twitter said it is limiting the information it makes public about the attack while it carries out “remediation steps” to secure the site, as well as training employees to guard against future hacking attempts.