Two US citizens have been arrested and charged with conspiring with Russian nationals to hack the taxi dispatching system at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), charging taxi drivers $10 to get in. front of the queue from September 2019 to September 2021.
Daniel Abayev and Peter Leyman (both 48 years old and from Queens, New York) first successfully hacked the dispatch system in 2019 with the help of unnamed Russian nationals, according to a report. DOJ . indictment filed in the Southern District of New York. Leyman and Abayev accessed the system to move specific cabs to the front of the line, the DOJ said, charging drivers $10 for the privilege. Members of the hack scheme also offered to waive the $10 fee in exchange for hiring more taxi drivers.
The JFK taxi dispatch system ensures taxi drivers a fair working environment, but can lead to long wait times between trips
The computer-controlled JFK taxi dispatch system manages how taxis are maneuvered between the airport’s parking lot and the terminal. The system was introduced to create a fair working environment, but waiting times of several hours can affect the daily earnings of taxi drivers.
The hackers used group chats to communicate with taxi drivers and advise them on how to avoid detection by law enforcement. According to the indictment, Leyman and Abayev approved up to 1,000 trips a day and transferred at least $100,000 to hackers in Russia as “payments for software development.”
Prosecutors allege that the pair explored several ways to hack the system, including bribing someone to infect their computer with malware via flash drives, stealing tablets be connected and access the dispatch system without permission over Wi-Fi. The indictment claims that members of the hacking scheme also sent messages to each other in which they explicitly discussed their intention to hack the dispatch system. “I know that the Pentagon is under attack[.]. So we can’t hack the taxi industry[?]Abayev texted a Russian conspirator in November 2019.
Both men face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if found guilty of their cybercrime
US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement: “For years, defendants’ hacking behavior prevented honest taxi drivers from receiving money at JFK in the order they came in. “Now, thanks to this Office’s cooperation with the Port Authority, these defendants are facing serious criminal charges for their cybercrime allegations.”
Both men have been charged with two counts of conspiracy to hack a computer, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if proven guilty.