The threats made over the past 18 months against many Jewish institutions, airlines, and police stations, disrupting work there and severely harassing guards and policemen all over the US and elsewhere, appeared to be the work of a sophisticated and extensive criminal organization. A dedicated investigation by authorities in Israel and the US has discovered, however, that the extortion and threats were committed by an 18.5 year-old operating from a small apartment in Ashkelon.
The cyber department in the State Attorney's Office today filed an indictment at the Tel Aviv District Court against the Israeli hacker for a long series of threats and acts of intimidation against over 2,000 institutions around the world: airports, airlines, schools, Jewish institutions, police stations, and more, and also against individuals. According to the indictment, among other things, the young man extorted a US Republican senator.
Since the young man was a minor at the time the alleged offenses were committed, publication of his name was not permitted.
The indictment charges the suspect with thousands of acts of extortion, publication of false reports causing fear and panic, computer offenses, and money laundering over two years. Other counts in the indictment include carrying an illegal weapon, attacking a policeman, mediating illegal drug deals, providing means to commit a crime, publishing and holding obscene pedophile material, and more.
The indictment, filed by Adv. Yoni Hadad of the cyber department, stated that the suspect had committed a series of threats and acts of intimidation (sometimes called swatting), including telephone calls and written messages using sophisticated computer means, against various parties around the world, including kindergartens, shopping malls, the Israeli embassy in the US, various public institutions, and more. He allegedly threatened them that terrorist acts and murder would be committed in crowded places using explosives placed ahead of time, shooting, and in other ways, and that many victims would be harmed.
The State Attorney cyber department said that the Internet had been used in these acts, and that the suspect had used sophisticated technological means to camouflage the sources of the communications and his voice. It was alleged that among other things, he "surfed" using other people's Internet routers in his residential neighborhood, and used an especially powerful antenna to create a connection with the routers. He also used Internet means to take over foreign computers and used sophisticated means to commit crimes, so that they would be traced to the controlled computer, rather than to him.
According to the indictment, the suspect's goal was to sow large-scale public panic, cause the summoning of large emergency forces to the threatened area, cause the panicked evacuation of the location, and bring about searches and scans of the location, thereby gaining public attention to what he was doing that would enhance the damage caused by his deeds. "Indeed, his actions resulted in great damage. In a number of cases, flights were canceled and airplanes were grounded by emergency landings, while in other cases, schools and Jewish institutions were evacuated and large-scale security forces were summoned," the indictment stated.
"A helpless young man on the autistic scale"
Representing the suspected hacker, Adv. Shira Nir said in response, "The indictment filed at the Tel Aviv District Court youth division (due to the fact that most of the offenses were committed when he was a minor) includes eight counts, which I will study in the coming days. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that my client's health is deteriorating, and I am doing everything to provide a proper alternative to imprisonment."
Nir continued, "The reports spread yesterday again show the prosecution's working method in trying to portray my client as a villain, while it is clear to every reasonable person that he is a helpless young man on the autistic scale suffering from a brain tumor, and with signs of a psychiatric disorder."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on April 24, 2017
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