MOSCOW, June 10 Russian police have arrested two
alleged hackers they say extorted money from users of Apple
devices by blocking them and demanding payment to free
them up again.
The suspects, one a teenager and the other in his early 20s,
could be jailed for two years if tried and convicted in what
would be a relatively rare cybersecurity case in which Russian
authorities have announced arrests.
The suspects, residents of Moscow, were arrested by the
Interior Ministry's cybercrime department - Directorate K - and
have given self-incriminating evidence, according to a ministry
statement issued on Monday.
The ministry did not say how many Apple users were hit by
the scam nor whether any were foreigners outside Russia.
It said the suspects exploited Apple's Find My iPhone app,
which is meant to allow users to find and block devices they
believe have been lost or stolen, to extort money from victims
they targeted - using two methods.
"The first involved gaining access to the victim's Apple ID
by means of the creation of phishing pages, (gaining)
unauthorised access to e-mail or using methods of social
engineering," it said.
"The second scheme was aimed at attaching other people's
devices to a pre-arranged account" by offering Apple IDs with
media content for lease on the Internet, which enabled the
suspects to gain control of the devices, the statement said.
Cybersecurity experts and Western law enforcement agencies
have raised questions about Russia's commitment to fighting
hackers on its soil, who have been blamed for some attacks on
Western government and business computers in the past.
Though Russian authorities have made more arrests in the
past few years than previously, officials in the United States
and Britain continue to complain about alleged poor cooperation.
Since Russia does not extradite anyone for offences committed
elsewhere as a matter of law, hackers must be suspected of
breaking domestic Russian law before any charges are filed.
Police began searching for suspects in the past few months,
when they began receiving reports of devices being hijacked by
hackers demanding money, K Directorate said.
It said officers confiscated computer hardware, SIM cards,
phones and how-to literature on hacking in searches of the
suspects' apartments in southern Moscow.
Russian daily MK reported that police had identified the
suspects in part thanks to surveillance-camera footage showing
them withdrawing cash from ATMs using bank cards linked to
accounts into which they told victims to transfer money.
The Interior Ministry said one of the suspects had been
convicted of a crime earlier. According to MK, he had practised
a lower-tech form of extortion: stealing license plates from
neighbours' cars and selling them back to their owners.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Mark Heinrich)