Joe Hildebrand gets Twitter back from Turkish hacker he calls a ‘hero’


Hackers may have successfully stolen media identity Joe Hildebrand’s Twitter account but their plan to get him to pay for its return quickly fell apart.

A series of messages between himself and the hackers, shared by Hildebrand, shows the hackers becoming increasingly confused and frustrated at his refusal to meet their demands – with him even offering to pay them to keep the account in one exchange.

After finding out about the hack on Thursday night last week, the news.com.au columnist said he felt a weird sort of relief.

“I was grinning like an idiot, I was so happy,” Mr Hildebrand told news.com.au.

He had been considering whether to get off the platform and then “suddenly this Turkish kid took the decision out of my hands and the weight off my shoulders, to me he’s like a hero”.

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A WhatsApp exchange between Mr Hildebrand and whoever managed to take over his Twitter account showed the hacker’s plan.

“Hello bro,” the hacker said in a WhatsApp message which included a screenshot of Mr Hildebrand’s account with the location changed to Turkey.

“Do you want Twitter account,” the hacker asked, sending another message almost two hours later simply asking “?”.

“Nah, you can keep it,” Mr Hildebrand replied almost three hours after the initial message.

His lack of interest in reclaiming the account seemed to come as a shock to the hacker but they pushed on claiming they would “refund your account” if they were sent money.

“How much do I have to pay for you to keep it?” Mr Hildebrand asked.

“We’ll sell the account if you don’t buy it,” the hackers threatened, which Mr Hildebrand saw as an opportunity.

“How much do you reckon you can get? Wanna go halves?”

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Mr Hildebrand’s offer to split the loot with the hackers only confused them further.

“Why should I send the money to you man? I have your account. You buy it yourself, return it or sell it, all my money is left to me,” the hacker said.

Mr Hildebrand wrote back telling them to “just get a good price”.

The hacker’s said they would sell the account, a verified Twitter with more than 87,000 followers, for $4000.

“Excellent, let me know how you go,” Mr Hildebrand told the hacker, who responded “I will inform you”.

About noon on Thursday Joe Hildebrand’s newly scrubbed account began tweeting again, sharing screenshots of the WhatsApp exchange including one final message sent at 10.10pm on Wednesday night.

“Buddy, you got the account today, I was going to sell it for 4000 dollars,” the hacker wrote.

“Sorry!” Mr Hildebrand wrote back.

He managed to recover his account by getting in touch with someone who knew someone who was the head of Twitter Australia, who pointed him towards an online form he could fill out with the necessary details to restore his account to its original owner.

While the account has now been scrubbed and only contains a few screenshots of WhatsApp messages, Mr Hildebrand is yet to decide whether it will stay that way or if he’ll go back to posting regularly.

He told news.com.au he believes the platform “has a complete distorting effect” and argues the bulk of the content on there is not reflective of mainstream views.

“Twitter used to be a town square, but now it just seems to be dominated by waves of pile-ons,” Mr Hildebrand said, later adding that “all the fun people are leaving the party”.

He did concede that his perception might be “a beached whale’s experience” that isn’t necessarily reflective of your average, non-public citizen on the site, and that “it’s not Twitter’s job to insulate me from that”.

It certainly doesn’t insulate him, the platform is full of people sharing their differing opinions on many topics, including Mr Hildebrand, not always as politely as below.

“It’s not really the platform’s fault, I’ve met amazing people there, which is why I’m in two minds, but in the end I think, if you’re someone trying to understand politics, community and voter sentiment and what motivates mainstream Australians, which I’m obsessed with doing, it’s kind of like a reverse barometer.”

While he’s still yet to make a decision on whether to continue using Twitter, Mr Hildebrand said he had “enjoyed the breather” and already deleted the app and the one from rival Facebook off his phone to stop it becoming a source of distraction.

But given how much he enjoyed a hacker taking the decision out his hands, we thought we’d open the question up to news.com.au readers.



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