The two Americans reportedly received assistance from two Russian hackers in the highly sophisticated hacking scheme, resulting in profits exceeding $100,000 over the years.
Two men from Queens, New York, were sentenced to prison today for their roles in a scheme to hack the electronic taxi dispatch system at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Daniel Abayev, 47, received a four-year sentence, while Peter Leyman, 49, received two years. Both were convicted of conspiring to commit computer intrusion.
The scheme, as reported by Hackread.com, involved Abayev and Leyman working with Russian hackers to manipulate the taxi queue, allowing participating drivers to jump ahead of the line for a fee. This not only disrupted the fair and orderly flow of taxi services at JFK Airport but also impacted the livelihood of honest taxi professionals who followed the rules.
“This was not just a technical crime; it was an attack on the integrity of a critical system and a betrayal of the trust placed in these individuals,” stated U.S. Attorney General Damian Williams. “Their actions caused real harm to honest taxi drivers and undermined the public’s confidence in the fairness of the system.”
According to the investigation, Abayev and Leyman conspired with the Russian hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in the dispatch system. This allowed them to remotely manipulate the queue, placing taxis driven by participants at the front of the line regardless of their arrival time.
The scheme reportedly facilitated up to 1,000 expedited trips per day, generating over $100,000 in illegal income for the perpetrators. The scheme started in September 2019 and continued until September 2021.
The judge presiding over the case, Paul A. Crotty, emphasized the seriousness of the offence, stating, “Hacking is just another way of stealing. This was done persistently over an extended period of time.”
In addition to the prison sentences, Abayev and Leyman were ordered to pay substantial restitution ($3,456,169.50) and forfeiture ($161,858.26) amounts. They are also subject to supervised release upon their release from prison.
This case goes on to show the potential consequences of cybercrime, particularly its impact on critical infrastructure and the livelihoods of ordinary people. It also highlights the importance of strong cybersecurity measures and vigilance in protecting sensitive systems from malicious actors.