A 22-year-old Londoner has been given 300 hours of community service and a State-enforced bedtime after trying to blackmail Apple with hundreds of millions of previously compromised login credentials.
Kerem Albayrak, 22, demanded Apple give him $75,000 in crypto-currency or a thousand $100 iTunes gift cards. If the maker of shiny white electronic stuff didn't comply, Albayrak said he would factory-reset 319 million iCloud accounts and "dump his databases online if his demands were not met," according to the National Crime Agency.
On 12 March 2017 Albayrak emailed Apple Security claiming to have iCloud account details which he planned to sell online on behalf of his "internet buddies." A week later he filmed himself accessing two apparently random iCloud accounts, posting the video on YouTube and sending the link to Apple, as well as multiple media outlets.
Two days later the demand increased to $100,000 and a threat to factory-reset every iCloud account he had access to. Last year CNBC quoted analysts estimating that Apple hosted around 850 million iCloud accounts, meaning Albayrak was threatening just under a third of all iCloud accounts in existence.
Apple contacted law enforcement in the UK and US and the NCA led the UK investigation. Later in March 2017, officers from the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit arrested Albayrak at his home in north London, helping themselves to his phone, computers and hard drive. Investigators found phone records showing Albayrak was the spokesman for a hacker group calling themselves the "Turkish Crime Family".
The NCA investigation confirmed Apple's findings that there were no signs of a network compromise. The data Albayrak claimed to have was actually from previously compromised third-party services which were mostly inactive.
When asked about some of his activities, Albayrak told NCA investigators: "Once you get sucked into [cyber crime], it just escalates and it makes it interesting when it's illegal," with the agency's press statement quoting him as saying: "When you have power on the internet, it's like fame and everyone respects you; and everyone is chasing that right now."
At the start of this month Albayrak pleaded guilty to one count of blackmail, having already admitted two counts of unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of or prevent/hinder access to a computer. A judge at Southwark Crown Court sentenced him on Friday 20 December, and the Londoner was given a two-year suspended prison term, 300 hours of unpaid work and a six-month electronic curfew.
Anna Smith, a senior investigative officer for the NCA, said in a canned statement: "During the investigation, it became clear that Albayrak was seeking fame and fortune. But cyber-crime doesn't pay. The NCA is committed to bringing cyber-criminals to justice. It is imperative victims report such compromises as soon as possible and retain all evidence."
Computer Misuse Act sentences are relatively light. Last week a grudge-holding IT contractor who tried to wreck airline Jet2's Active Directory domain was sent down for five months despite a Crown court judge declaring that the perp had committed a "deliberate act with a high level of sophistication and planning." As an exclusive analysis by The Register revealed earlier this year, headline CMA sentences usually range from 6-9 months or 18-24 months.
Next year sees the formal launch of a campaign by some British infosec companies to reform the CMA. It is thought that the public sector, particularly the NCA, is also keen to redraw Britain's main anti-hacker laws. ®
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