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A British hacker, Joseph O’Connor, aka the PlugwalkJoe, has been sentenced to five years in a United States prison for stealing $794,000 worth of crypto through a SIM swap attack.

The SIM swap attack case

O’Connor was initially arrested in Spain in July 2021 for his involvement in a SIM swap attack on a crypto exchange executive in 2019. He was later extradited to the United States on April 26, 2023. In May, he pleaded guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, wire fraud, and money laundering.

O’Connor’s charges include blackmailing. He blackmailed a victim on Snapchat by threatening to release private messages publicly unless they promoted O’Connor’s online persona. He stalked and threatened another victim and orchestrated swatting attacks by falsely reporting emergencies to authorities or sending messages to the families of his victims, threatening to take their life.

Although O’Connor’s crimes happened years ago, SIM swap attacks still remain an issue in the crypto sector. These attacks involve taking control of a victim’s phone number by linking it to another SIM card controlled by the attacker, allowing them to reroute calls and messages and gaining access to accounts that use SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA).