‘Russian hackers’ help two New York men game the JFK taxi system
Written by AJ Vicens
A pair of New York City men, working with unnamed Russian nationals, hacked and manipulated the electronic taxi system at John F. Kennedy International Airport as part of a fundraising scheme over a period of at least two years, federal prosecutors said. Tuesday.
Beginning at least September 2019, Daniel Abayev and Peter Leyman operated a pay-to-play system for taxis to skip the line instead of idling in a hold until hailed by a clerk, prosecutors said in the Southern District of New York. a statement. Abayev and Leyman allegedly charged taxi drivers $10 for each time they jumped in front and exempted other drivers from the $10 fee if they recruited additional paying drivers.
The duo each face two counts of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
As part of the scheme, the men worked with unidentified “hackers” in Russia to develop malware, prosecutors alleged in the indictment, which was unsealed Tuesday. The men bribed someone to insert a flash drive into computers connected to the system used to dispatch the taxis, prosecutors said. They also gained unauthorized access to the dispatch system via a Wi-Fi connection, and stole computer tablets connected to the system, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors claim the men knew exactly what they were doing. On November 10, 2019, for example, Abayev allegedly sent a message to one of the Russian hackers in Russian: “I know the Pentagon is being hacked[.]. So, we can’t hack the taxi industry[?]”
It is not clear how many taxi trips were rigged in this way, but in November 2019, Abayev allegedly sent Leyman a spreadsheet showing that the scheme charged drivers an average of 320 trips per day over a three-day period. The scheme enabled as many as 1,000 taxi rides per day, prosecutors said, and at one point the New York-based couple transferred more than $100,000 to the hackers in Russia, describing the payments as “payment for software development” or “payment for services” rendered. ”
US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that “these two defendants – with the help of Russian hackers – took the Port Authority for a ride. For years, the defendants’ hacking prevented honest cab drivers from being able to collect fares at JFK in the order they arrived. Now, thanks to this office’s cooperation with the Port Authority, these defendants are facing serious charges for their alleged cybercrime.”