In a United States court, a Cypriot national has confessed to hacking U.S.-based websites, manipulating consumer data, and seeking ransom money from site operators to keep the data secret.
Between at least October 2014 and November 2016, the first Cypriot national to be extradited to the U.S., Joshua Polloso Epifaniou, 21, of Nicosia, Cyprus, perpetrated the scheme. The Justice Department says.
Epifaniou was a juvenile hacker, according to court documents, during the scheme. By looking at website user rankings, he will identify possible targets, and then take personal identifying information (PII) from them, with the aid of co-conspirators.
The hacker attacked both consumer and client accounts, gathering details of interest through leveraging vulnerability flaws or accessing co-conspirator data.
Epifaniou contacted the victim’s websites while in control of the PII, threatening to make the stolen data public and offering a ransom payment in crypto-currency.
Some of the victims of the hacker include an online sporting news website in Atlanta, Georgia; a free online gaming publisher in Irvine, California; a New York, New York, hardware company; an Innsbrook, Virginia, online jobs website; and Ripoff Report, located in Phoenix, Arizona (ROR).
Epifaniou paid nearly $600,000 in compensation to the plaintiffs prior to pleading guilty. He agreed to forfeit $389,113 and roughly 70,000 euros to the government in the plea agreement.
On September 19, 2017, Epifaniou was charged on numerous charges of conspiracy to wire theft, wire fraud, electronic fraud conspiracy, and extorting. In a 24-count indictment moved from the District of Arizona, he was also arrested and pleaded guilty to one count of information theft.
The hacker will be sentenced on March 3, 2021.