A British man has pleaded guilty to hacking Twitter accounts – including Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian and Elon Musk – in an attempt to scam people out of Bitcoin.
Joseph O’Connor, 23, also admitted to other hacking schemes, cyberstalking of a young victim and money laundering charges.
He was extradited from Spain to New York last month and faces up to 77 years in prison when sentenced on June 23.
O’Connor and his conspirators stole more than $794,000 (£629,000) worth of cryptocurrency, money he must pay back to the victims, prosecutors say.
Chirping had to freeze some of the stars’ accounts after tweets in July 2020 urged people to send $1,000 in Bitcoin to receive double that.
It has also hacked into accounts belonging to Kanye West, Joe Biden, Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
Twitter has confirmed that 130 accounts have been targeted, including 45 used to send tweets.
The company said the hackers gained access via a social engineering attack, a breach based on getting someone to provide access, rather than finding flaws in the software.
Twitter said at the time that “a small number of employees” were called on the phone and induced to provide their login credentials.
The amateurish quality of the scam surprised many with respect to the effectiveness of the attackers in gaining access.
“O’Connor’s criminal activities were flagrant and harmful, and his conduct impacted the lives of many people,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite.
“He harassed, threatened and extorted his victims, causing considerable emotional damage.”
O’Connor, who was known online by the name PlugWalkJoe and had previously given media interviews about the hack, was arrested in July 2021 in Spain at the request of the FBI.