The 17-year-old teen who was alleged to have masterminded the online attack targeting the Twitter accounts belonging to V.I.Ps – including U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and tech billionaire Elon Musk – has pleaded not guilty to court charges.
It turns out that a series of hidden social media sites, a compromised database and driver’s license photographs contributed immensely to investigations surrounding the much-publicized Twitter online attack.
Federal agents stumbled upon crumbs of evidence that would lead them to the Tampa teen who law enforcement described as mastermind of the worst attack in the social media giant’s own history.
Twitter’s statement concerning the attack spelled that the threat actors succeeded in breaching to the company’s platform via social engineering and spear-phishing. The attack would see the hackers obtain the credentials of Twitter employees with access to internal systems before posting the fake tweets using profiles of verified users.
Notably, although investigations leading into arrest of the suspected perpetrators of the Twitter hack were carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Clark’s prosecution was handled by state court because the State of Florida’s laws allow minors to be charged as adults under special legal circumstances.
Court records noted that Clark made more than $100,000 from the Bitcoin fraud scheme which involved the breaching of Twitter celebrity accounts to solicit funds from unsuspecting followers.
The defendant was charged with seventeen counts of communication fraud, eleven counts of the illicit use of personal information for fraudulent reasons, and two counts involving the accusation of obtaining $5,000 through fraud and accessing electronic devices without authority.
Reportedly, in a brief hearing occurred in Tampa via Zoom video conferencing, the Florida teen told the Circuit Court Judge Christopher Nash in Tampa that he was not guilty of the all counts of charges issued by prosecution.
The former Gaither High School student has entered the not guilty plea last Tuesday, with a bail hearing that was scheduled for August 5, 2020 – where his defense team planned to argue for a reduction in the $725,000 bail that has kept him behind bars since his arrest.
If convicted, the youngster will staring down a 200-year prison sentence for the thirty counts of fraud.
Further, two other suspects, 22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard from the UK, are facing related charges in relation to the Twitter attack. Law enforcement agents discovered that two defendants used the online gaming social media site Discord to help orchestrate the Twitter hack.
Twitter: A Case Study of What Could Go Absolutely Wrong Online
Barely twenty four hours into the Twitter attack that caught the social media giant flatfooted, a host of expert commentators seemed to agree on one thing – the attack would have been much, much worse.
Indeed, the main question stands to be – should Twitter be trusted moving forward?
As observed by Bruce Schneier, a seasoned security technologist and Harvard Kennedy School fellow, it leaves a lot to imagine if the brazen attack would have happed the night before election.
Schneier brought attention to the fact that members of the public have over-relied on Twitter for far too long, even as social media platforms continue to wield a lot of unregulated power.
The prolonged time with which Twitter scrambled to regain control of their systems highlights fundamental flaws within Twitter’s verification infrastructure and the U.S. information ecosystem at large – the dependency on these unsound structures poses great danger across all socioeconomic spheres.
At this point, Twitter has not provided further information concerning the attack, other than their statement about “a traditional social engineering attack” that targeted internal systems.