#infosec | Two Plead Guilty to Uber and Lynda.com Hacks


Two North American men have pleaded guilty to hacking and extorting Uber and LinkedIn’s Lynda.com business, compromising data on tens of millions of users in the process.

Brandon Charles Glover, 26, of Winter Springs, Florida, America, and Vasile Mereacre, 23, of Toronto, Canada, pleaded guilty to one charge each of conspiracy to commit extortion involving computers. They will likely face a five-year stretch in jail and fine of $250,000 as a result.

The two are said to have used a custom-built GitHub account checker tool to try a number of already breached corporate credentials and see if they unlocked accounts on the developer site. After accessing several accounts belonging to Uber employees, they found AWS credentials which unlocked the online taxi firm’s AWS S3 data stores.

Using an encrypted ProntonMail address, they then contacted Uber’s CSO, claiming to have found a vulnerability in its systems and demanding payment in return for deletion of the compromised customer and driver data — which ran into 57 million records.

Uber eventually agreed, paying them the requested $100,000 in Bitcoin through its HackerOne account and then covering up the incident, until a new CEO decided to come clean in 2017.

Emboldened by their success, Glover and Mereacre then obtained access to 90,000 Lynda.com accounts via the online education firm’s AWS S3 account, and tried the same extortion trick, according to court documents.

However, this time the firm went public with the breach.

The two incidents almost read like a case study in the right and wrong ways to handle a breach-related extortion demand.

In the case of Uber, it ended up settling with the US government to the tune of $148m, whilst paying a £385,000 fine to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It’s lucky to have escaped the wrath of GDPR regulators, given that 2.7 million British customers and drivers were affected by the breach.

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