OAKLAND, Calif. — A Florida teenager was arrested early Friday in connection with the recent high-profile hack of 130 Twitter accounts, including the accounts of celebrities like former Vice President Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk.
Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was the “mastermind,” state officials said, of a hack that turned into an embarrassment for Twitter and called into question the security provided by a range of tech companies.
Federal authorities were already tracking Clark before the Twitter hack. In April, the Secret Service seized more than $700,000 worth of Bitcoin from him, according to legal documents. The Tampa youth faces 30 felony charges, including fraud, and is being charged as an adult.
Bloomberg News reported state authorities charged Clark as an adult under Florida law, rather than federal, because “Florida law allows us greater flexibility to charge a minor as an adult in a financial fraud case,” said Andrew Warren, the state attorney of Hillsborough County, Florida.
The Twitter hack began July 15 as an effort to steal and sell unusual user names. It quickly escalated as the hackers took over accounts belonging to cryptocurrency companies and celebrities. The scheme netted Bitcoin worth more than $180,000.
The hackers tweeted from 45 of the accounts, accessed the direct messages of 36 accounts and downloaded full information from seven accounts. They gained access to internal Twitter systems by stealing login information from employees, then used their access to reset passwords on the accounts.
“We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses,” a Twitter spokesman said.
Hackers involved in the breach told The New York Times that they had been quietly selling stolen usernames when one person involved in the group suddenly launched the Bitcoin scam before disappearing.
“Working together, we will hold this defendant accountable,” said Andrew Warren, state attorney of Hillsborough County, Florida, in a statement. “Scamming people out of their hard-earned money is always wrong. 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.”