Cybercrime activity. PHOTO: Cybercrime Magazine.

Hack Blotter, Vol. 4, No. 2: Cybercriminal Arrests And Convictions

The convergence of cybersecurity and law enforcement

Steve Morgan, Editor-in-Chief

Sausalito, Calif. – Jun. 30, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is tied to an alarming increase in cybercrime. We have seen numerous attacks against companies’ private data servers, hospital resources and records, and phishing attacks against vulnerable individuals. The question then becomes: how has the criminal justice system responded to this increase in cybercrime?

Read on to learn about the most notable cybersecurity investigations, arrests, and convictions from the past quarter.

June

Jun. 29. A British judge said that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange must attend his next court hearing unless he can provide medical evidence to support his absence. Lawyers for Assange said he could not attend the latest hearing on his U.S. extradition case by video link from prison for medical reasons.

Jun. 27. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has issued a new superseding indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. But the indictment fails to disclose crucial information as generally required under UK law. This failure could be seen as highly prejudicial and therefore present another opportunity for the defense to lodge a challenge to the extradition request.

Jun. 26. A Russian computer hacker who facilitated $20 million in credit card fraud and ran a sophisticated clearinghouse for international cybercriminals was sentenced Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to nine years in prison.

Jun. 25. The U.S. Justice Department charged a Canadian and a Northern Ireland man for allegedly conspiring to build botnets that enslaved hundreds of thousands of routers and other Internet of Things devices for use in large-scale distributed denial-of-service attacks. In addition, a defendant in the United States was sentenced to drug treatment and 18 months community confinement for his admitted role in the botnet conspiracy.

Jun. 22. New Zealand police have frozen $140 million in bank funds linked to a Russian “computer genius” in the largest ever restraint of funds in New Zealand police history. The money was controlled by a New Zealand registered company and has been frozen as part of a global investigation into a bitcoin exchange run by Alexander Vinnik, who is alleged to have laundered billions of dollars for criminal syndicates.

Jun. 18. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has revealed that it was working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify and prosecute local partners of Instagram celebrity, Ramoni Igbalode, popularly known as Hushpuppi. The EFCC described Hushpuppi as “Nigerian most-wanted hacker.”

Jun. 18. A man from Michigan was arrested and indicted in the infamous hack of UPMC, where data from more than 65,000 workers was stolen. Prosecutors say 29-year-old Justin Johnson hacked into UPMC’s human resources server in 2014.

Jun. 17. The U.S. Department of State announced sanctions on six Nigerians whom it accuses of operating an elaborate online scheme to steal more than $6 million from people across the United States. According to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the six individuals are: Nnamdi Orson Benson, Abiola Ayorinde Kayode, Alex Afolabi Ogushakin, Felix Osilama Okpoh, Micheal Olorunyomi, and Richard Izuchukwu Uzuh.

Jun. 15. Six former employees of eBay, Inc. have been charged with leading a cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor and publisher of a newsletter that eBay executives viewed as critical of the company.

Jun. 15. One of the Philippines’ most prominent journalists is facing up to six years in prison after she was found guilty of “cyberlibel” charges, a verdict condemned as setting “an extraordinarily damaging precedent” for press freedoms. The ruling against Maria Ressa was issued by a court in Manila, where attendance was limited due to coronavirus prevention measures.

Jun. 12. A man known for calling himself the “cyber jihadi” on social media was sentenced by a German court to five years prison on Friday for aiding a terrorist organization. A regional court in the western German city of Düsseldorf sentenced the 39-year-old German-Tunisian man, whose name was not released for reasons of privacy, to time in prison for supporting the Islamist terror militia Ahrar al-Sham.

Jun. 12. Russian officials said this week that German authorities have failed to produce the evidence that Russian military hackers breached the German Parliament in 2015. The statement is in relation to an arrest warrant that Germany filed at the end of May, when they charged a Russian hacker named Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin.

Jun. 10. DJ and music producer Denis Kaznacheev has been arrested in Berlin on cybercrime charges at the request of the U.S. government. Long-term Berlin resident Kaznacheev is co-founder of Nervmusic records and half of minimal techno duo Easy Changes. 

May 

May 30. Charles E. Taylor has been sentenced to federal prison for hacking his former Atlanta-based employer and sabotaging their internal communications network, causing more than $800,000 in damage.

May 26. Authorities arrested an alleged member of the prolific hacking group known as Fin7, whose victims include Chipotle and other fast-food restaurants, casinos, and credit unions, according to newly unsealed court records. Fin7 pulled in an estimated billion dollars of illicit revenue, and even created fake penetration testing companies to give their operations an air of legitimacy.

May 23. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency arrested three persons on the charge of involvement in cybercrimes.

May 21. Police in China have arrested 12 individuals in connection with a money-laundering scam involving digital currency OTC transactions through the Huobi platform.

May 21. A Nigerian citizen was sentenced Wednesday to 54 months in federal prison after pleading guilty for money laundering in connection with a wire-fraud scheme that swindled victims out of more than $600,000. U.S. Attorney Scott C. Blader, Western District of Wisconsin, announced the sentence.

May 20. Police arrested in the Philippines a man who was wanted in Pasay for his alleged bitcoin scams. The National Capital Region Police Office identified the suspect as Malvin Kistiakowsky Chaneco Tianchon, 29, a resident of Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

May 19. Australian authorities have brought down an illegal digital currency operation and arrested one of its alleged operators. The operation exchanged fiat currency for digital currencies and is alleged to have processed over A$5 million (US$3.24 million).

May 19. The Ukrainian Secret Service announced the arrest of a hacker known as Sanix, responsible for selling billions of hacked credentials on hacking forums and Telegram channels. Authorities did not release the hacker’s name.

May 18. Police in Europe have swooped on a cybercrime gang they suspect of planning ransomware attacks using COVID-19 lures against hospitals. The four-man “Pentaguard” group was formed at the start of the year, according to the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism. Officers carried out three house searches in Romania and one in neighboring Moldova.

May 11. Nintendo hacker Ryan S. Hernandez’s sentencing has been postponed due to coronavirus-related court delays. Hernandez, aka Ryan West, 21, from Palmdale, California, carried out a phishing attack to steal a Nintendo employee’s login data.

May 6. Law enforcement authorities in Poland and Switzerland recently knocked out the InfinityBlack hacker group. According to Europol, the Polish National Police arrested five members of the group and seized electronic equipment, external hard drives, and hardware cryptocurrency wallets worth around €100,000.

May 5. Germany has issued an arrest warrant for a suspected Russian military intelligence officer alleged to have hacked servers in the German parliament. The suspect, Dmitry Badin, 29, is also wanted in the United States on charges of trying to interfere in the country’s 2016 presidential election.

May 4. Hearings in the U.S. extradition case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will resume in September after being postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

April

Apr. 24. Police in Mozambique have arrested a computer scientist suspected of embezzling 9 million meticais (€123,000) from Beira Central Hospital in Sofala province. The man in custody has not yet been charged.

Apr. 21. Volodymyr Kvashuk, a Ukrainian citizen seeking asylum in the United States, was convicted for defrauding Microsoft of more than $10 million in digital currency.

Apr. 21. Police in Malaysia have arrested 14 Chinese men accused of orchestrating a digital currency scam. The men allegedly targeted victims from China, posing as successful investors. They face up to 10 years behind bars.

Apr. 19. The cybercrime wing of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency has arrested two ATM hackers in Islamabad. According to the FIA officials, they recovered thumb impressions of over 4,500 people in their laptop and a money transfer application in their cellphones.

Apr. 19. A man was arrested in the UK as part of a national crackdown on fraud gangs who are exploiting the coronavirus crisis. The man was detained and questioned about scam text messages and emails which have been circulated as part of a series of criminal attempts to obtain people’s banking details.

Apr. 17. Spain’s National Police arrested a 16-year-old hacker in Madrid with a long history of cyberattacks spanning from late 2019.

Apr. 16. Seven Nigerian nationals were arrested by the Aflao Sector Command of the Ghana Immigration Service for allegedly engaging in cyberfraud.

Apr. 14. A Czech court ruled that eight Taiwanese charged with being involved in cross-border telecom fraud cannot be extradited to China. The Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic annulled the decision by the Municipal Court in Prague, which was handed down in 2018 and later upheld by the High Court in the Czech capital.

Apr. 13. A husband and wife face multiple felony charges after a fraud investigation in Colorado. Ryan Carneal was arrested when he arrived at the El Paso County courthouse for a hearing. He faces more than 14 charges related to identity theft, vehicle theft, forgery, cybercrimes, and other offenses.

Apr. 10. Two people have been indicted for the hacking of various celebrities’ phones. It was previously reported that at least 10 celebrities, including actors Joo Jin Mo and Ha Jung Woo, had their cellphones hacked for around three months and were being blackmailed. The hacker is said to have been paid 600 million won (approximately $495,000) by at least five of the celebrities.

Apr. 9. A Connecticut teenager was arrested on computer crime charges after being accused of “Zoom bombing” virtual classes held by staff at Daniel Hand High School. The juvenile male suspect, who is not being named due to his age, is facing multiple criminal charges after being accused of repeatedly hijacking educational lessons while using obscene language and gestures.

Apr. 9. Portuguese hacker Rui Pinto, the originator of Football Leaks, who is facing trial for attempted blackmail has been placed under house arrest after leaving precautionary detention. Pinto, 31, was extradited from Hungary in March 2019 for allegedly attempting to blackmail an investment fund.

Apr. 9. U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California said the trial of Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin, who has been in custody for 41 months awaiting trial on charges he hacked into computers belonging to LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring, would resume on May 4. The date falls after “shelter in place” orders and general orders currently governing court procedures across the Northern District are currently set to expire.

Apr. 3. Australian police have charged two men over their alleged involvement in a $2.6 million email scam syndicate. The scam involved sending altered invoices to legitimate businesses that unwittingly paid the scammers who then transferred the money into their personal bank accounts.

Hack Blotter Archives

Steve Morgan is founder and Editor-in-Chief at Cybersecurity Ventures.

Go here to read all of my blogs and articles covering cybersecurity. Go here to send me story tips, feedback and suggestions.



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