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Saturday, 18 July 2020 11:27

New York Times says Krebs wrongly implicated Briton in Twitter hack Featured

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New York Times says Krebs wrongly implicated Briton in Twitter hack Image by kalhh from Pixabay

For the second time in as many days, former Washington Post employee Brian Krebs has been caught out for making false accusations against an individual over last week's Twitter scams, with The New York Times pointing out that he had wrongly identified an individual known as PlugWalkJoe as being a pivotal player in the Twtter hack.

The NYT contacted PlugWalkJoe, whose real name is Joseph O'Connor, 21, a British citizen, who told the newspaper that he had been getting a massage near his current home in Spain when the hack came to light.

The newspaper said logs from the online messaging platform Discord showed that while PlugWalkJoe acquired the Twitter account @6 through “ever so anxious,” and briefly personalised it, he was not otherwise involved in the conversation.

PlugWalkJoe added in an interview with The Times: “I don’t care. They can come arrest me. I would laugh at them. I haven’t done anything.”

As iTWire reported on Friday, Krebs was accused of doxxing O'Connor based on information from a single source. The charge was levelled by Sean Hollister of the tech website Verge.

krebs screesnhot

A screenshot from Krebs' story accusing O'Connor of involvement in the Twitter hack.

Krebs has a history of doxxing people without any real reason for doing so, even if they were tangential to any story he was writing.

In March 2018, he came under fire from users of a German image board pr0gramm.com after he revealed details about several admins and moderators in an article which claimed to identify who was behind the cryptocurrency mining service Coinhive.

In April last year, Krebs was again slammed by security researchers after he doxxed two of them on Twitter, apparently because he disagreed with them about the operations of Spamhaus.

Asked for his reaction to Krebs' repeated doxxing of people when there did not appear to be any reason to do so, former NSA hacker Jake Williams said: "It's one thing to send information to law enforcement. It's another entirely to dox them based on circumstantial digital evidence."

Williams, now an independent businessman who runs an infosec firm known as Rendition Infosec, added: "In the age of digital advertising requiring clicks, I get why journalists do it, but I can't get behind it."

iTWire has contacted Krebs for comment and asked him if he either plans to issue a correction to his story or whether he has any intention of contacting O'Connor in order to offer him an apology.

Update, 19 July: A group called HackerHealth has put out a tweet advertising a Brian Krebs Repellent for US$1. In its tweet, it says: "Are you a Discord user between the ages of 12 and 17? If so, we have bad news for you: a 50-year-old dude in a suit named @briankrebs is probably cyber stalking you in anticipation of a very public doxxing. Protect yourself today!"

The tweet, which was retweeted by Mustafa Al Bassam, a doctoral researcher in the UK and a former black hat hacker with LulzSec, links to a description of the repellent. It says: "Are you a Discord user between the ages of 12 and 17? If so, we have bad news for you: a 50-year-old dude in a grey suit named Brian Krebs is probably cyber stalking you in anticipation of a very public doxxing. Protect yourself today with our laboratory tested Brian Krebs Repellent.

"With an extremely large following and active blog rife with monetisation, the wild Krebs constantly needs to fuel his uncontrollable urge to expose the identities of teenage script kiddies, thus enabling him to further profit from corporate talks about his latest doxxing.

krebs repellent

"The Krebs is a ferocious and persistent species and standard repellents/tranquillisers will simply not penetrate his enormous defensive forehead.

"Luckily, through years of science and testing, our unique formula has been proven to deter Krebs for up to 24 hours, causing him to lose the ability to log your chats, stalk your childhood Instagram, or ask your family/friends incriminating questions about you.

"Take action now against the horrors of being Krebsed.

"Unlike those hacked verified accounts on Twitter, we're actually giving back to the community! This item is currently only $1!"


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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