February 8, 2023

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Two men arrested for allegedly hacking JFK’s cab dispatch system

Two US citizens were arrested and accused of conspiring with Russian nationals to hack the taxi dispatch system at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and fine taxi drivers $10 between September 2019 and September 2021 Calculate to get to the front of the queue.

Daniel Abayev and Peter Leyman (both 48 and from Queens, New York) first successfully hacked the mailing system in 2019 with the help of unnamed Russian nationals, according to a DOJ indictment filed in the Southern District of New York. Leyman and Abayev accessed the system to get certain cabs to the front of the line, the DOJ says, charging drivers a $10 fee for the privilege. Members of the hacking scheme also offered to waive the $10 fee if they recruited more cab drivers.

JFK’s taxi dispatch system ensures taxi drivers have a fair work environment, but can result in long waits between trips

The computerized JFK taxi dispatching system manages how taxis are dispatched between the airport’s waiting area and terminal. The system was introduced to create a fair working environment, but waiting times of several hours can affect a taxi driver’s daily earnings.

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 authorized up to 1,000 trips a day and sent the hackers in Russia at least $100,000 as “payment for software development.”

Prosecutors allege the pair explored multiple ways to hack the system, including bribing someone to infect their computers with malware via a flash drive, stealing connected computer tablets, and gaining unauthorized access to the shipping system via WiFi. The prosecution alleges that members of the hacking system also sent messages to each other specifically discussing their intention to hack the mailing system. “I know the Pentagon is being hacked[.]. So can’t we hack the taxi industry?[?]Abayev wrote a message to a Russian conspirator in November 2019.

Both men face a maximum of 10 years in prison if found guilty of their alleged cybercrimes

“For years, the hacking of the defendants discouraged honest taxi drivers from picking up tickets at JFK in the order of arrival,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “Thanks to the teamwork of this office with the Port Authority, these defendants now face serious criminal charges for their alleged cybercrime.”

Both men have been charged with two counts of conspiracy to break into computers, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if found guilty.