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Florida Teenager, Alleged ‘Mastermind’ Of Massive Mid-July Twitter Hack, Arrested And Charged

By  Eric Quintanar
POLAND - 2020/07/15: In this photo illustration a Twitter logo is seen displayed on a smartphone.
Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A 17-year-old resident of Tampa Bay, Florida, was arrested and charged Friday for the massive Twitter hack in mid-July that caused some billionaires, politicians and celebrities to tweet instructions to donate bitcoin, and prompted Twitter to lock verified users out of their accounts in response as they tried to address the problem. 

The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office has filed 30 charges against the teenager, including 17 counts of communications fraud over $300 and 10 counts of fraudulent use of personal information. 

“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here. This ‘Bit-Con’ was designed to steal money from regular Americans from all over the country, including here in Florida. This massive fraud was orchestrated right here in our backyard, and we will not stand for that,” said State Attorney Andrew Warren.

The state attorney’s office, which described him as the “mastermind” behind the attack, has also charged him with one count of organized fraud over $50,000, one count of fraudulent use of personal information (over $100,000 or 30 or more victims), and one count of accessing a computer without authority and (scheme to defraud). 

“Scamming people out of their hard-earned money is always wrong,” said the state attorney. “Whether you’re taking advantage of someone in person or on the internet, trying to steal their cash or their cryptocurrency—it’s fraud, it’s illegal, and you won’t get away with it.”

Multiple high-profile people were targeted in the July 15 hack, including presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, and former President Barack Obama, among others people and corporate Twitter accounts. 

The Wall Street Journal, which wrote that security experts had deemed the situation “the most significant hacking incident in Twitter’s history,” reported at the time that Twitter “took the extraordinary step of limiting posts from verified accounts with blue check marks, which Twitter generally designates for more prominent users.”

“Tough day for us at Twitter. We all feel terrible this happened,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later in the evening. “We’re diagnosing and will share everything we can when we have a more complete understanding of exactly what happened.”

Even after Twitter returned full account access to verified users, some users, such as Donald Trump Jr and Congressman Jim Jordan, said they were still locked out of their account, according to Fox News

A week after the hack, Twitter said that a total of 130 accounts had been targeted, including 45 accounts that delivered unauthorized tweets. Furthermore, 36 accounts had their direct message inbox accessed, although the company said only one elected official — someone in the Netherlands — had their inbox accessed. 

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