British teenager among trio charged in US over Twitter hack

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22:31pm, Fri 31 Jul 2020
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Three people, including a 19-year-old from Britain, have been charged in the United States over a hack of high profile Twitter users earlier this month.

The US Department of Justice said Mason Sheppard, from Bognor Regis, faces three charges in connection with an apparent cyber scam targeting around 130 accounts on the social media site on July 15.

Sheppard, who US authorities say is also known as “Chaewon”, faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.

There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence

US Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson said Sheppard “faces a statutory maximum penalty of 45 years of imprisonment” if convicted.

The three charges were filed against Sheppard in the Northern District of California, which is where Twitter is located.

The accounts were affected as part of an apparent cyber scam which hijacked accounts including those of former US president Barack Obama, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and rapper Kanye West.

Tweets were simultaneously posted promoting a Bitcoin scam, promising followers they would receive double the amount of money back if they transferred funds to a digital wallet.

According to court documents filed on July 23 and made public on Friday, approximately 415 transfers were made to the Bitcoin address totalling more than 117,000 US dollars – equivalent to approximately £90,000.

Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, Florida, was charged with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.

The Department of Justice said charges had also been filed against a juvenile.

Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested in Tampa, Florida, on Friday according to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office.

It said Clark will be prosecuted as an adult and is allegedly the “mastermind” behind the hack.

The teenager was arrested on 30 charges, including one count of organised fraud and 17 counts of communications fraud.

Mr Anderson said: “There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence.

“Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.

“Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it.

“In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”

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