$794K SIM swap hacker PlugwalkJoe sentenced to five years in prison

: British Hacker Joseph O’Connor, also known online as PlugwalkJoe, has been sentenced to five years in U.S. prison for his role in stealing $794,000 worth of cryptocurrency via a SIM swap attack on an exec back in April 2019. O’Connor was initially arrested in Spain in July 2021 and was extradited to the U.S. on April 26, 2023. In May he pled guilty to a slew of charges relating to conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, to name a few. The prison sentence was in a June 23 statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York and further ordered O’Connor to pay $794,012.64 in forfeiture. The hacked crypto exec has not been named, however after SIM swapping them, O’Connor gained unauthorized access to accounts and computing systems belonging to the exchange that the exec worked at. “After stealing and fraudulently diverting the stolen cryptocurrency, O’Connor and his co-conspirators laundered it through dozens of transfers and transactions and exchanged some of it for Bitcoin using cryptocurrency exchange services. Ultimately, a portion of the stolen cryptocurrency was deposited into a cryptocurrency exchange account controlled by O’Connor,” the statement reads. O’Connor’s sentence also covers offenses relating to the major Twitter hack of July 2020, which ultimately fetched him and his crew around $120,000 worth of ill-gotten crypto gains. The attackers deployed a series of “social engineering techniques” and SIM-swapping attacks to hijack around 130 prominent Twitter accounts, along with two large accounts on TikTok and Snapchat. As part of this scheme, O’Connor attempted to blackmail the Snapchat victim by threatening to publicly release private messages if they didn’t make posts promoting O’Connor’s online persona. Additionally, O’Connor also “stalked and threatened” a victim, and “orchestrated a series of swatting attacks” on them by falsely reporting emergencies to authorities. SIM swap attacks continue to be a significant issue in the crypto sector, with a bad actor taking control of a victim’s phone number by linking it to another sim card controlled by them enabling re-route of the victim’s calls and messages to a device controlled by them, and gain access to any accounts the victim uses on. Earlier this month blockchain sleuth ZachXBT that SIM-swapped at least eight accounts belonging to well-known figures in crypto, including Pudgy Penguins founder Cole Villemain, DJ and NFT collector Steve Aoki and Bitcoin Magazine editor Pete Rizzo. According to ZachXBT, the group stole almost $1 million by promoting phishing links from the hacked accounts.

Robert Wilson
Robert Wilson author

As the overseer of NicheBot's editorial content, I am committed to ensuring that all information published on our website is both accurate and relevant to our readers. My fervent support for the crypto industry has led me to closely monitor the developments within it since 2012, and I have contributed extensively to discussions and debates surrounding the world of Bitcoin.

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