Two Charged in Alleged Hacking of Drug Enforcement Agency's Web Portal
According to previous reports by Gizmodo, two individuals have recently been charged for their suspected involvement in the 2022 hacking incident of the Drug Enforcement Agency's web portal. The Department of Justice announced in a recent press release that Sagar Steven Singh and Nicholas Ceraolo have been accused of stealing a police officer's credentials to gain access to a federal law enforcement database, which they then allegedly used to extort their victims.
Prosecutors have claimed that the suspects, who are members of a hacking group known as Vile, typically engage in stealing personal information from their victims and then threatening to dox them online unless they receive payment. While the Department of Justice did not specifically identify the agency that was targeted by Singh and Ceraolo, it did state that the hacked portal contains "detailed, nonpublic records of narcotics and currency seizures, as well as law enforcement intelligence reports." This aligns with a report from Krebs on Security that indicates the DEA was the target of the cyberattack.
As per the complaint, Singh allegedly utilized the data obtained from the federal portal to coerce his victims, including one incident where he threatened harm to the victim's family unless they surrendered the login credentials to their Instagram accounts. In this particular case, Singh attached the victim's social security number, driver's license number, home address, and other personal information, which he had obtained from the government's database, to his menacing message.
Counterfeit requests for emergency data are becoming progressively more frequent.
Reportedly, Singh wrote to the victim that he could access information on anyone in the US through the portal, regardless of their identity. He allegedly threatened to harm the victim's parents unless they complied with his demands.
In the meantime, Ceraolo is said to have utilized the same portal to gain access to the email credentials of a police officer from Bangladesh. Reportedly, Ceraolo assumed the officer's identity and communicated with an unspecified social media platform to acquire the home address, email address, and telephone number of a particular user. Ceraolo claimed that the victim was involved in "child extortion," blackmail, and had threatened the Bangladeshi government. Additionally, Ceraolo allegedly attempted to defraud a renowned gaming platform and a facial recognition company by repeating the same strategy, but both organizations rejected his requests.
The fraudulent scheme executed by Ceraolo has reportedly become more frequent. In 2022, a Bloomberg report disclosed that Meta, Apple, and Discord were targeted with comparable strategies where cybercriminals posed as law enforcement officers to request emergency data. Although social media platforms may release user data to law enforcement in criminal cases, this necessitates a subpoena or search warrant authorized by a judge. However, emergency data requests do not require such authorization, and hackers are taking advantage of this.
As noted by Krebs on Security, Ceraolo has been labeled as a security researcher in several reports that acknowledge him with identifying security flaws associated with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Cox Communications. In May 2022, law enforcement searched Ceraolo's residence before conducting a search of Singh's home in September of the same year.
Singh was apprehended in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on Tuesday, while Ceraolo surrendered himself shortly after the Department of Justice made the charges public. The DOJ stated that Ceraolo could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and both Ceraolo and Singh may face up to five years in prison for their purported involvement in a conspiracy to commit computer intrusions.
The arrest of Sagar Steven Singh and Nicholas Ceraolo in connection to the hacking of the Drug Enforcement Agency's web portal is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it highlights the growing problem of cybercrime and the serious consequences that cybercriminals can face. The charges against the two suspects include conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, which could result in significant prison sentences if they are found guilty.
Additionally, the case underscores the dangers of fraudulent emergency data requests, which have become increasingly common. Cybercriminals are exploiting the lack of authorization required for such requests, and the incident serves as a warning to organizations to be vigilant and ensure that proper procedures are in place to verify the authenticity of such requests.
Furthermore, Ceraolo's previous association with identifying security vulnerabilities related to major companies adds another layer of significance to the case. The incident highlights the importance of responsible disclosure and the need for security researchers to report vulnerabilities to companies directly rather than exploiting them for personal gain.
Overall, the arrests of Singh and Ceraolo serve as a reminder of the serious consequences of cybercrime and the need for continued efforts to combat it. It underscores the importance of cooperation between law enforcement agencies, technology companies, and security experts to prevent such incidents and bring those responsible to justice.
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