Last month, we reported that Joseph James O’Connor, also known as ‘PlugwalkJoe’ online, pled guilty to participating in various cybercrime activities, including the massive Twitter hack in July 2020 that compromised hundreds of high-profile accounts.
The 24-year-old has now been given a five-year jail sentence, three additional years under supervised release and has been ordered to pay back more than $790,000 USD (roughly $1 million CAD) in illicitly obtained funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York’s release, via Gizmodo
The combined charges against O’Connor carried a maximum penalty of 77 years in prison, as reported by Reuters. While prosecutors initially sought a seven-year sentence, the presiding Judge Jed S. Rakoff noted that O’Connor would likely serve only half of the five-year term due to his pre-trial custody of nearly 2.5 years.
The 2020 Twitter hack was one of the most notorious cyberattacks in recent history. The hackers gained unauthorized access to Twitter accounts belonging to celebrities, politicians and business leaders, such as Bill Gates, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos, Kanye West, Elon Musk, and more. They then used those accounts to promote cryptocurrency scams that netted them over $120,000 USD (roughly $150,000 CAD at the time) in Bitcoin.
According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), O’Connor communicated with his co-conspirators in the Twitter hack about buying and selling access to hacked accounts. He also admitted to purchasing access to at least one account for $10,000 USD (roughly $13,000 CAD).
But that was not the only cybercrime O’Connor was involved in. He also confessed to hacking a TikTok account with millions of followers and a Snapchat account using SIM swapping. SIM swapping involves transferring a victim’s phone number to a device controlled by the hacker, allowing them to bypass security measures such as two-factor authentication.
Read the sentencing report here.
Image credit: FBI