The US Justice Department revealed that two individuals had been detained on suspicion of participating in a hacking operation against the John F. Kennedy International Airport’s taxi dispatch system. Authorities claim that the suspects, New Yorkers Daniel Abayev and Peter Leyman, broke into the JFK dispatch system in an effort to change it so that some taxi drivers would be pushed to the front of the line.
Taxis have to wait in a holding lot at JFK before being sent to a terminal in the order they arrive. Before being dispatched, taxis might be required to stay in this lot for many hours. Abayev and Leyman were able to change the dispatch order after hacking into the taxi dispatch system, allowing certain cabs to bypass the queue. Taxi drivers who participated in the program paid $10 each time they cut through the line.
Both suspects are 48 years old and reportedly used Russian hackers to help them infiltrate the system. The cybercrime operation began in 2019, and hacking attempts included getting someone to use a flash drive to install malware onto dispatch system computers, breaking into the system using a Wi-Fi attack, and stealing tablets linked to the dispatch system.
“I know that the Pentagon is being hacked[.]. So, can’t we hack the taxi industry[?],” the suspects allegedly said. Even though both suspects are US citizens, they spoke Russian with the Russian hackers. The indictment reveals that the hackers facilitated up to 1,000 fraudulently accelerated cab journeys daily using this operation, which was active until September 2021.
According to reports, Abayev and Leyman handed the Russian hackers more than $100,000 of their earnings. Each defendant faces two counts of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a maximum 10-year jail term.