British teenager charged over Twitter hack

The 19-year old is one of the three individuals arrested for involvement in the spear-phishing scam

A teenager from Bognor Regis, West Sussex, has been arrested in relation to the major Twitter hack that targeted accounts belonging to Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and others.

Mason Sheppard, 19, is one of the three individuals believed to have been involved in the spear-phishing scam, and the only one to be based in the UK.

Twitter confirmed that, although the attackers ultimately tweeted from 45 accounts, they had targeted 130, accessed the inboxes of 36, and managed to download the Twitter Data of 7.

Other suspects include Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando and a 17-year old from Tampa, Florida, who could be named due to legal reasons. 

Sheppard has been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, wire fraud and the intentional access of a protected computer, according to the US Department of Justice. It is not clear whether the British teenager will be tried in the UK or extradited to the US.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) confirmed via Twitter that it had supported the US investigation carried out by the FBI and that it searched a property in Bognor Regis on Friday.

Commenting on the arrests, US Attorney David L Anderson said that there is a “false belief” that “attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence”.

“Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it. In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you,” he warned.

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The unnamed 17-year old from Tampa, Florida was charged with 30 counts of felony, including organised fraud and fraudulent use of personal information.

According to Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, who filed the charges against the teenager, the crimes “were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they're not the primary victims here”. 

“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,” he said.

Twitter’s communications team thanked the authorities for the “swift actions (...) in this investigation”. The social media platform also vowed to improve its security measures in order to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

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