A 17-year-old from Florida charged as 'mastermind' of the recent high-profile Twitter hack

While some initially thought the hack was the work of professionals, it turns out the “mastermind” was a 17-year-old recent high school graduate from Florida,


One by one, the celebrity Twitter accounts posted the same strange message: Send Bitcoin and they would send back double your money. Elon Musk. Bill Gates. Kanye West. Joe Biden. Former President Barack Obama. They, and dozens of others, were being hacked, and Twitter appeared powerless to stop it.

While some initially thought the hack was the work of professionals, it turns out the “mastermind” of one of the most high-profile hacks in recent years was a 17-year-old recent high school graduate from Florida, authorities said Friday.

Graham Ivan Clark was arrested in his Tampa apartment, where he lived by himself, early Friday, state officials said. He faces 30 felony charges in the hack, including fraud, and is being charged as an adult.

 A 17-year-old from Florida charged as mastermind of the recent high-profile Twitter hack

Image:Reuters

Two other people, Mason John Sheppard, 19, of the United Kingdom, and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, Florida, were accused of helping Clark during the takeover. Prosecutors said the two appeared to have aided the central figure in the attack, who went by the name Kirk. Documents released Friday do not provide the real identity of Kirk, but they suggest it was Clark.

Clark was skilled enough to go unnoticed inside Twitter’s network, said Andrew Warren, the Florida state attorney handling the case.

“This was not an ordinary 17-year-old,” Warren said.

Clark convinced one of the company’s employees that he was a co-worker in the technology department who needed the employee’s credentials to access the customer service portal, a criminal affidavit from Florida said. By the time the hackers were done, they had broken into 130 accounts and raised significant new questions about Twitter’s security.

Despite the hackers’ cleverness, their plan quickly fell apart, according to court documents. They left hints about their real identities and scrambled to hide the money they’d made once the hack became public. Their mistakes allowed law enforcement to quickly track them down.

Less than a week after the incident, federal agents, search warrant in hand, went to a home in Northern California, according to the documents. There, they interviewed another youngster who admitted participating in the scheme. The individual, who is not named in the documents because he or she is a minor, gave authorities information that helped them identify Sheppard and said that Sheppard had discussed turning himself into law enforcement.

Kate Conger and Nathaniel Popper c.2020 The New York Times Company


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