Alleged Twitter hacker’s virtual bail hearing halted as Zoom call itself appears to be hacked

Florida teen and two other young men are accused of being behind cyber intrusion that saw them temporarily take over the accounts of major celebrities to demand money.


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Graham Ivan Clark
Graham Ivan Clark

Fittingly for a teenager accused of carrying out one of the most outrageous hacks in recent memory, an online bail hearing for Graham Ivan Clark was interrupted on Wednesday by rap music, screams and flashes of pornography.

Clark, 17, is accused of hacking the Twitter accounts of some of the most famous people in America in a bid to trick other users of the micro-blogging site into paying him Bitcoin.

Does the teenager, of Tampa Florida, have some pals who have similar hacking prowess? It shouldn’t be discounted.

The interruptions during his bail hearing became so frequent — culminating in a user sharing their screen in order to take over the meeting with pornographic video — that presiding Judge Christopher C. Nash ended the Zoom call temporarily, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. It was eventually continued.

Clark’s bail had been set at 750,000 but his attorneys were on Wednesday still trying to reduce that number. It was not clear as of Wednesday lunchtime whether the Zoom “malfunctions” were helping or harming their efforts.

The teenaged suspect and two alleged accomplices, who bilked victims out of a total of $100,000, have been charged with 17 counts of communications fraud, 11 counts of fraudulent use of personal information, and one count each of organized fraud of more than $5,000 and accessing computers or electronic devices without authority.

Clark was arrested last Friday in Tampa, and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting him as an adult.

Mason Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, UK, and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando were charged separately last week in California federal court.

As part of the high-profile security breach, bogus tweets were sent out on July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.

The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.

Court papers in the California cases say Fazeli and Sheppard brokered the sale of Twitter accounts stolen by a hacker who identified himself as “Kirk,” and said he could “reset, swap and control any Twitter account at will” in exchange for cybercurrency payments, claiming to be a Twitter employee.

The documents do not specify Kirk’s real identity but say he is a teen being prosecuted in the Tampa area.

Twitter has said the hacker gained access to a company dashboard that manages accounts by using social engineering and spear-phishing smartphones to obtain credentials from “a small number” of Twitter employees “to gain access to our internal systems.” Spear-phishing uses email or other messaging to deceive people into sharing access credentials.

Although the case was investigated by the FBI and the US Department of Justice, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said his office is prosecuting Clark in state court because Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases when appropriate. He called Clark the leader of the hacking scam.

“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said.

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