Three individuals were charged today for their roles in the July 15 Twitter breach that hijacked 130 accounts and spread a Bitcoin scam that led to the theft of more than $100,000.
Twitter has confirmed the attackers targeted a small number of its employees with a phone spear-phishing attack. The perpetrators were able to use their stolen credentials to tweet from celebrity accounts, access direct message inboxes, and download data from Twitter accounts. A Department of Justice release describes the attack as a combination of technical breaches and social engineering.
The release states the alleged attackers include Mason Sheppard, 19, a UK citizen charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer. Nima Fazeli, 22, is from Orlando, Fla., and charged with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.
Their alleged co-conspirator is a 17-year-old who was arrested this morning in Tampa and is charged with 30 felony charges, including a count of organized fraud (over $50,000), 17 counts of communications fraud (over $300), 10 counts of fraudulent use of personal information, one count of fraudulent use of personal information (over $100,000 or 30 or more victims), and one count of access to a computer or electronic device without authority (scheme to defraud).
Law enforcement is charging the 17-year-old as an adult, as Florida law allows minors to be tried as adults in financial fraud cases where appropriate, according to a press release.
“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement. 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.”
The release describes the 17-year-old as the “mastermind” behind the attack that took over the Twitter accounts of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West, and several other accounts with millions of followers. Attackers posted messages from these accounts urging users to sent Bitcoin to a wallet linked to in the tweet, promising the amount would be doubled in return. More than 400 Bitcoin transfers were made to attackers, the DoJ reports.
These arrests follow a complex investigation by the FBI, IRS, US Secret Service, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, and Florida law enforcement.
Twitter has issued a brief statement: “We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses. For our part, we are focused on being transparent and providing updates regularly.”
Read more details here.
Register now for this year’s fully virtual Black Hat USA, scheduled to take place August 1–6, and get more information about the event on the Black Hat website. Click for details on conference information and to register.
Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial … View Full Bio