Accused Twitter hacker’s first court appearance Zoombombed by Bitcoin pranksters
The first court hearing for the 17-year-old alleged “mastermind” of last month’s Twitter hack was cut short Wednesday after pranksters disrupted the virtual proceedings with profane, racist, and in one instance, pornographic, outbursts.
A defense lawyer for Graham Ivan Clark, who is accused of breaking into Twitter accounts of famous CEOs and politicians from Barack Obama to Elon Musk as part of a Bitcoin-stealing scheme, attempted to argue for a reduction in Clark’s $725,000 bond, as well as a partial reinstatement of Clark’s internet access.
But a Florida judge terminated the hearing, which was held as a Zoom video call and did not require a password, less than 25 minutes in after several participants loudly interrupted in what’s known as Zoombombing.
At first, the trolls cut into the testimony with clips of Middle Eastern music, and began messaging the chat with slang and racist epithets. Moments later, someone shared their screen to broadcast a graphic sexual video from the site Pornhub.
The incident highlights the difficulty in virtually prosecuting a crime committed virtually, allegedly by mostly teenage hackers, who seized access to some 130 Twitter accounts, to steal not only $117,000 worth of Bitcoin, but also “OG” usernames like @vampire.
It was perhaps not surprising, then, that the high-profile hearing, open to anyone with the publicly available Zoom meeting ID, also attracted some attendees with mischief in mind. Even before the loud disruptions, one participant’s video stream, instead of his or her face, showed a screen apparently set up to send Bitcoin to a “Free Graham Fund,” though it was unclear whether such a fund exists; in the address field, where an alphanumerical sequence would normally be for a cryptocurrency transaction, was just an offer: “Let me know the addy.”
Other participants may have joined in just for laughs: One user going by the name “lil peep” chimed in on the chat with “LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL.”
For their screen names, the pranksters also used names of fictional movie characters as well as the name of another judge at the same Florida court where the case is being tried.
After the first meeting was shut down, the court attempted to restart the call while selectively admitting authorized officials and media outlets, but the trolls quickly circumvented those restrictions as well: Soon, music began playing from accounts labeled “BBC News” and “CNN,” interspersed with clips, possibly from movies or TV, spouting phrases such as, “You think I care, kid?”
Shortly after that, voices from other accounts appearing to impersonate journalists from CNN and Fox 5 News hurled a string of profanities, including the phrase “F— Rolex.” That could be a reference to one of the other defendants in the case, 22-year-old Nima Fazeli, also known as “Rolex,” who was charged in California with aiding and abetting the hack.
The presiding Judge announced that future hearings will be password-protected before ending the call.
Despite numerous and escalating interruptions the Judge, Christopher Nash, reached a decision: Though he denied Clark’s request for reduced bond, he won’t require the Tampa teen to show that the source of the money used to post it did not come from criminal activity, as the court initially stipulated.
While Clark faces 30 counts of fraud charges for the Twitter hack and unlawful acquisition of Bitcoin, he was previously the target of another investigation into a cryptocurrency theft, though no charges were filed after he turned 100 Bitcoins over to prosecutors, according to new court documents.