A criminal complaint and arrest warrants were unsealed today charging two Romanian nationals with a conspiracy to illegally access approximately 123 computers associated with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) surveillance cameras and to use those computers in connection with a scheme to distribute ransomware in January 2017.
U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, and Brian J. Ebert, Special Agent in Charge, Washington Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, made the announcement.
Mihai Alexandru Isvanca, 25, and Eveline Cismaru, 28, of Romania, were arrested on Dec. 15, 2017, at the Otopeni airport in Bucharest, Romania. The complaint was filed under seal on Dec. 11, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Both defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit various forms of computer fraud. Isvanca remains in custody in Romania and Cismaru is on house arrest there pending further legal proceedings.
As described in the affidavit in support of the complaint, on Jan. 12, 2017, the Secret Service was notified that a number of MPD surveillance cameras had been compromised. Agents from the Washington Field Office immediately launched an investigation. The investigation uncovered information that the MPD surveillance camera computers were compromised between Jan. 9 and Jan. 12, 2017, and that ransomware variants called “cerber” and “dharma” had been stored on the computers. Other evidence in the investigation revealed a scheme to distribute ransomware by email to at least 179,000 email addresses.
According to the complaint, further investigation showed that the two defendants, Isvanca and Cismaru, participated in the ransomware scheme using the compromised MPD surveillance camera computers, among others. The investigation also identified certain victims who had received the ransomware or whose servers had been accessed during the scheme.
This case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service’s protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. In partnership with MPD’s Chief Technology Office, the Secret Service and MPD quickly ensured that the surveillance camera system was secure and operational prior to the Inauguration and continued to investigate the criminal offenses charged.
The investigation revealed no evidence that any person’s physical security was threatened or harmed due to the disruption of the MPD surveillance cameras.
The charges in criminal complaints are merely allegations, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The maximum penalty for a conspiracy to commit wire fraud is 20 years of incarceration. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The investigation into this matter was conducted by the Secret Service’s Washington Field Office. Assistance was provided by law enforcement partners in the National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom, The Netherland’s National High Tech Crimes Unit, the Romanian National Police (Service for Combating Cybercrime), MPD, and the FBI’s Washington, D.C. and Houston Field Offices. The Office of International Affairs of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division provided significant assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by the Cyber Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Columbia