US teen 'mastermind' in epic Twitter hack sentenced to prison

Dozens of celebrity Twitter accounts were hijacked last year as part of a cryptocurrency scheme that netted some $100,000 and led to the prosecution of a 17-year-old "mastermind"
Dozens of celebrity Twitter accounts were hijacked last year as part of a cryptocurrency scheme that netted some $100,000 and led to the prosecution of a 17-year-old "mastermind" Glenn CHAPMAN AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

A Florida teenager accused of masterminding a Twitter hack of celebrity accounts in a crypto currency scheme has been sentenced to three years in juvenile prison in a plea agreement, officials said.

State prosecutors announced the deal Tuesday in the case of Graham Ivan Clark, 18, described as the mastermind of the July 2020 "Bit-Con" worldwide hack of Twitter accounts of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and others.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren said Clark, who was 17 when he was charged, would serve three years in a juvenile prison followed by three years probation, the maximum allowed under Florida’s Youthful Offender Act.

If Clark violates his probation, he will face a minimum 10-year sentence in adult prison.

The hack, which resulted in federal charges against three other people, hijacked the celebrity accounts and asked followers of them to send bitcoin to an account, promising to double their money.

"He took over the accounts of famous people, but the money he stole came from regular, hard-working people," Warren said.

"Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences.”

Warren added that the "our goal with any child, whenever possible, is to have them learn their lesson without destroying their future," and offers him a chance at rehabilitation.

The case was investigated by federal authorities but Clark was turned over the to state because he was a juvenile at the time.

According to prosecutors, Clark used his access to Twitter's internal systems to take over the accounts of several companies and celebrities and involved a combination of "technical breaches and social engineering," netting some $100,000.

Twitter said at the time that the July 15 incident stemmed from a "spear phishing" attack which deceived employees about the origin of the messages.

The hack affected at least 130 accounts, including that of Biden while he was a candidate for president.