Florida teen ‘mastermind’ arrested in connection with massive Twitter hack

kali9/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(TAMPA, Fla.) — A Florida teen has been arrested in connection with the massive Twitter hack earlier this month that impacted the accounts of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West and other high-profile users.

The 17-year-old Tampa resident, who was arrested Friday, was hit with 30 felony charges in connection with the cyber attack, according to Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.

“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here,” Warren said in a statement. “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.”

The Florida teen was the “mastermind” of the hack, according to a statement from Warren’s office.

In a news conference Friday, Warren described the alleged hacker as “not an ordinary 17-year-old.”

“This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before, it could’ve been an extremely high amount of loss,” Warren said. “It could have destabilized financial markets both here and around the globe, because he had access to powerful politicians’ Twitter accounts, and could have undermined international diplomacy.”

Warren also revealed that the teen gained access to a Twitter account of an employee, and then gained access “to the internal controls of Twitter, through compromising a Twitter employee.”

“He compromised the security of a Twitter employee, which allowed him to gain access to that accounts and controls, and that gave him access to whatever Twitter account he wanted, he was then selling access to those accounts,” he said.

Warren noted that he was “surprised it was someone so young,” but added “at the same time, we see people all the time who are sophisticated and savvy on computers at a young age.”

During the July 15 hack, some of the compromised accounts tweeted for funds to be sent to a Bitcoin account.

Warren’s office said the scheme reaped more than $100,000 worth of Bitcoin in just one day.

The teen faces one count of organized fraud, 17 counts of communications fraud, 11 counts of fraudulent use of personal information and one count of accessing a computer or electronic device without authority.

“Working together, we will hold this defendant accountable,” Warren said in a statement. “Scamming people out of their hard-earned money is always wrong. Whether you’re taking advantage of someone in person or on the internet, trying to steal their cash or their cryptocurrency — it’s fraud, it’s illegal, and you won’t get away with it.”

Twitter previously said that 130 accounts were targeted in the attack, and that tweets were sent out from 45 of those accounts. The social media giant also said that their investigation revealed that the direct message inboxes of 36 accounts were accessed by the hackers, including one elected official in the Netherlands.

ABC News’ Luke Barr contributed to this report.

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