SIM Swap Scandal: Man Who Hacked Politicians Gets Charged

In the crypto world, many people will tell you to have two-factor authentication (2FA) active on all accounts. This is simply because 2FA uses a secondary source to prove you owned the account. 

Many websites have 2FA active in a way that connects to a user’s phone number sending a message with a secret code. In 2019 a wave of attacks targeted people who used this type of two-factor authentication.

The attack was called the SIM swap which simply involved a mobile phone’s SIM card and swapping the SIM.

There are two ways an attacker can access an account by carrying out a SIM swap

  • One way is by changing the SIM card on the account and adding their own. This is done manually by calling up a mobile phone provider and altering the details without verification.
  • Another way is through insiders, people who work at mobile phone companies, and illegally change account information without consent.

Once an attacker has swapped a user’s SIM card, this allows them to access any personal emails and accounts, with free reign to reset any password and obtain information. A type of invasion like this can escalate into a hacker draining every bank account or user exchange it can log into.

Earlier this summer, 22-year-old Joseph James O’Connor ran a scheme in which he swapped multiple SIM cards, including those of three executives at a Manhattan cryptocurrency company.

He stole Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies from two of their clients, and laundered the money. Joseph James O’Connor and his associates were recently charged with the theft of $784,000. He was arrested in July 2021 in Spain and is awaiting extradition.

O’Connor is also being charged with hacking multiple Twitter accounts, in which he used to post Bitcoin scams that stole over $100,000 in Bitcoin.

The safest way to use 2FA is through applications like Google Authenticator or Authy. These apps are local to your phone and cannot be accessed unless a user has a physical device.

This stops criminals from accessing accounts digitally. To tackle such crimes, mobile phone companies have also cracked down on potential SIM swapping with stricter verification procedures.

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Updated: 11/06/2021 — 20:00