British man 'PlugWalkJoe' arrested in Spain over 2020 Twitter hack

metal handcuffs on laptop keyboard
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A 22-year old British national has been arrested by Spanish authorities in connection with the biggest security and privacy breach in Twitter’s history.

Joseph James O'Connor, who currently lives in Liverpool and is known online as ‘PlugWalkJoe’, was detained in the resort town of Estepona in Southern Spain. He is accused of being involved in the hijacking a variety of verified Twitter accounts, including then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, as well as former US President Barack Obama, on 15 July 2020.

O’Connor and his accomplices are alleged to have then used the accounts to launch a Bitcoin scam, forcing Twitter to block the accounts from posting until security to the accounts could be restored.

Apart from his role in the Twitter hack, O’Connor, who describes himself as a “harmless wannabe hacker”, is also accused of hijacking TikTok and Snapchat user accounts, as well as cyberstalking a juvenile victim, the US Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.


X-Force Threat Intelligence Index

Top security threats and recommendations for resilience


“O’Connor is charged with three counts of conspiracy to intentionally access a computer without authorisation and obtaining information from a protected computer; two counts of intentionally accessing a computer without authorisation and obtaining information from a protected computer; one count of conspiracy to intentionally access a computer without authorisation and, with the intent to extort from a person a thing of value, transmitting a communication containing a threat; one count of making extortive communications; one count of making threatening communications; and two counts of cyberstalking,” the Justice Department stated on its website.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Spanish National Police assisted in the investigation and arrest, it added.

O'Connor is expected to appear in a detention hearing in Spain on Thursday and is likely to face extradition to the US. He is the second UK citizen to be implicated in the case, with Mason Sheppard, 19, from Bognor Regis, West Sussex, having been charged in early August 2020.

Two men from Florida, Nima Fazeli, 23, and Graham Ivan Clark, 18, have also been arrested. Clark, who was 17 at the time of the arrest, pleaded guilty and is serving three years in juvenile prison, while Fazeli was sentenced to five years and handed a $250,000 (£182,000) fine.

Sabina Weston

Having only graduated from City University in 2019, Sabina has already demonstrated her abilities as a keen writer and effective journalist. Currently a content writer for Drapers, Sabina spent a number of years writing for ITPro, specialising in networking and telecommunications, as well as charting the efforts of technology companies to improve their inclusion and diversity strategies, a topic close to her heart.

Sabina has also held a number of editorial roles at Harper's Bazaar, Cube Collective, and HighClouds.