TAMPA, Fla. (News Nation/WFLA) – Just who was the mystery teen who authorities say took over Twitter’s most VIP accounts, including big names like Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Bill Gates to name a few?
When his identity came out Friday, the shock set in all over Tampa Bay and beyond.
Federal and state officials say the man behind the hack was actually a teenager from Tampa, busted at his parents’ house.
Graham Ivan Clark was taken into custody in the pre-dawn hours Friday morning at his family’s home in Northdale.
Neighbors say it was “pitch black” outside when they saw patrol cars parked in front of the two-story home, lights flashing in the darkness. They wondered what was going on at the home. Why was law enforcement gathering in their quiet neighborhood? Perhaps a burglary, they thought, or even a domestic issue.
Never would they have guessed the deputies out front were there for a high-profile arrest and that the identity of the suspect would soon make headlines all over the world.
Turns out, the young man busted and booked Friday in the wee hours was the “mastermind” who recently hacked some of the most famous names on Twitter, according to the state attorney’s office.
He was the teen who lived just down the street, the high school student neighbors say drove too fast and played his music too loud. He was a kid.
The 17-year-old is a junior at Gaither High School, according to the school’s 2020 yearbook.
It’s been said you never really know your neighbors and what goes on behind closed doors. Those who live nearby told us, truer words have never been spoken. Case in point – the teen and his family.
So, when this family-oriented Northdale neighborhood learned the news that Graham Ivan Clark was arrested for the biggest hack Twitter has ever seen – they were stunned.
Deric Raymond was one of the neighbors who saw the early-morning arrest.
He lives just a few doors down, and early Friday morning, he walked outside.
“I wondered if someone was having a fight, maybe something domestic,” he told News Nation affiliate WFLA’s Melanie Michael. “I would not have guessed that. That was a total surprise when I learned that.”
Raymond said Clark goes to high school with his daughter.
“I think it’s incredible a 17-year-old could even pull off this type of crime. It reminded me of that movie ‘War Games’ with Matthew Broderick,” the dad remarked. “Aren’t 17-year-olds supposed to be out there being teenagers? Not sitting in a dark room, hacking accounts on Twitter.”
Investigators say the teen had everyone fooled.
No one ever expected the teen with the dark hair, often seen in his front yard with friends, would be the accused kingpin behind the keyboard.
The question everyone is asking – how did the hacker get into the accounts? How did a 17-year-old allegedly gain access to Twitter’s deepest data?
According to court documents, Clark conned a Twitter employee into thinking he was a coworker from the IT department, requesting the employee’s credentials.
According to arrest documents, the teen was hoping his ruse would provide the crucial data he needed to enter the company’s most protected portals.
Authorities say the Twitter employee provided the credentials needed to tap into the mainframe, a place where the teen could pick and choose from the biggest names in the world from politicians to businessmen to musicians.
Documents show once the teen got in, he began tweeting from the accounts of everyone – from current presidential hopeful Joe Biden to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to rapper Kanye West.
It was there, detectives say, he did his dirty work. In the tweets sent out from various accounts, the users appeared to be begging for Bit-Coin. Clark netted more than $100,000, according to the state attorney.
However, his happiness after the hack was short-lived.
The multiple phony tweets from hacked accounts quickly got the attention of Twitter’s corporate team, as well as state and local investigators.
In the end, Clark was arrested on more than 30 felony counts.
He faced a judge Saturday morning and is being held on $750,000 bond. If convicted in this case, the teenager could be sentenced to more than 150 years in prison.
The teen’s sister, Yeva, spoke briefly on her brother’s behalf late Friday afternoon.
After returning from an errand, she told WFLA, “I love my brother, I don’t know anything about the situation. He’s going to be alright. That’s it.”