- A Florida teen identified as the mastermind of a scheme that gained control of Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to multiple counts of fraud.
Graham Ivan Clark, 17, of Tampa, Fla., convinced a employee that he was a co-worker, according to prosecutors, and seized control of a phone number via SIM-swapping, whereby a hacker convinces a carrier to assign a number to a new device.
What we Know so far
He also set up several fake phishing pages, including one that resembled the company’s Okta login portal, a destination used for securely logging into company systems.
Once inside, Clark allegedly gained the ability to bypass Twitter’s security protections, setting the stage for an hours long hack on July 15 that held hostage the main communications tool of some of the most powerful people on the planet.
Two others were also charged for the attack – Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, Fla. The group connected on an online forum known as OGUsers.com and later discussed plans over gaming platform Discord.
Clark, which entered a not-guilty plea in court Monday, is accused of allowing some associates to sell access to Twitter accounts, including 17 from famous individuals and companies to promote a bitcoin scam that earned approximately $117,000.
“Since the attack, we’ve significantly limited access to our internal tools and systems,” Twitter said in a blog post last week.
Graham Ivan Clark, 17, is accused of using the hijacked Twitter accounts to scam people around the world out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin.
He is charged with 17 counts of communications fraud, 11 counts of fraudulent use of personal information, and one count each of organized fraud of more than $5,000 and accessing computers or electronic devices without authority. The brief hearing in Tampa took place via the video conferencing service Zoom.
Clark is scheduled for a bond hearing on Wednesday. He remains in the Hillsborough County Jail with bail set at $725,000, according to court records.
Clark was arrested on Friday in Tampa, and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting him as an adult, a news release said.
As part of the high-profile security breach, bogus tweets were sent out on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.
The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.
Court papers in the California cases say Fazeli and Sheppard brokered the sale of Twitter accounts stolen by a hacker who identified himself as “Kirk,” and said he could “reset, swap and control any Twitter account at will” in exchange for cybercurrency payments, claiming to be a Twitter employee.
The documents do not specify Kirk’s real identity but say he is a teen being prosecuted in the Tampa area.
What we know so far
Clark is represented by Tampa attorney David Weisbrod. He has not yet responded to a phone call seeking comment about his client’s case.
Fazeli’s father says he’s 100% sure his son is innocent.
“He’s a very good person, very honest, very smart and loyal,” Mohamad Fazeli said. “We are as shocked as everybody else. I’m sure this is a mix up.”
Federal court records didn’t list attorneys for Sheppard or Fazeli.