Thursday 6 August 2020 10:54 am

Twitter hack bail hearing ‘Zoombombed’ with porn

A virtual bail hearing for the American teenager accused of hacking Twitter in a high-profile bitcoin scam last month was interrupted by participants “Zoombombing” the court with pornography.

Graham Ivan Clark, the 17-year-old from Florida who is accused of masterminding the biggest Twitter hack in history, appeared in court via Zoom yesterday to appeal his bail charge of $750,000 (£570,000).

Read more: Twitter bans Donald Trump’s presidential campaign over coronavirus fake news

But the court hearing was abruptly halted when Zoom users repeatedly intercepted the video stream to play pornography out loud in a phenomenon known as “Zoombombing”.

At first, pranksters cut into the testimony with loud music, and began bombarding the accompanying Zoom chat with racist language. But moments later, an unidentified user shared their screen to broadcast graphic pornography.

While prosecutors made the case for Clark to remain in jail, Judge Christopher C Nash did not get a chance to rule on the bail request after he was forced to cancel the court hearing.

Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at internet security firm ESET, said: “This clearly shows that even after the torrent of Zoombombing we saw at the start of the pandemic, people still haven’t learnt how to keep their virtual meetings safe from attacks like this. 

“There are plenty of ways to reduce the chance of embarrassment – such as banning screen takeovers, setting up a unique password to enter a meeting, or using a unique room ID without sharing it publicly… But if users choose to bypass these protection tactics, especially in a very public trial, then unauthorised takeovers become highly likely to occur.”

Clark is accused of engineering last month’s bitcoin scam, in which involved Twitter employees handed over credentials to hijack the accounts of celebrities and politicians. 

On 15 July, hundreds of blue tick accounts, including those of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Kim Kardashian, were hijacked to post tweets convincing followers to hand over money to a bitcoin wallet. 

The hackers received $120,000 from the scam in just a few hours, as Twitter scrambled to remove the posts and regain control of the accounts.

The social media platform said at least 36 of the hacked accounts had private messages infiltrated, including those of far-right Dutch political Geert Wilders.

The US Department of Justice has charged Clark with 30 counts of fraud for his alleged role, which he denies.

British teen Mason Sheppard, a 19-year-old from Bognor Regis, is accused of assisting Clark and finding buyers for another hacker offering illegal access to Twitter accounts.

Read more: Twitter faces $250m fine after US data probe

Sheppard has been charged with intentional access of a protected computer, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

He faces a potential jail sentence of 45 years.

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