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JFK Airport Taxi Hackers Sentenced to Prison

Two individuals involved in hacking the taxi dispatch system at JFK airport have been sentenced to prison. 

Two cab drivers accused of being involved in a hacking scheme targeting the taxi dispatch system at John F. Kennedy International Airport have been sentenced to prison, the US Justice Department announced on Monday.

The individuals are Daniel Abayev, who has been sentenced to four years in prison, and Peter Leyman, sentenced to two years in prison. They have also been sentenced to three years of supervised release and were each ordered to pay $160,000 in forfeiture and nearly $3.5 million in restitution.

Abayev and Leyman, both US citizens living in New York, pleaded guilty in October 2023 to conspiracy to commit a computer intrusion.

According to investigators, Abayev and Leyman worked with two Russian nationals, Aleksandr Derebenetc and Kirill Shipulin, between at least September 2019 and September 2021. The Russian nationals hacked into the taxi dispatch system at JFK airport and moved taxis whose drivers had paid a fee to Abayev and Leyman to the front of the line.

At JFK, taxis are required to wait in a holding lot before being dispatched to a terminal in the order in which they arrived. Taxis may need to wait for several hours before being dispatched, but the scheme enabled some drivers to jump the queue.

Authorities said as many as 1,000 taxis were sent to the front of the line per day through this scheme, with drivers paying $10 each time they skipped the line. 

The DoJ said the hackers attempted to take control of the taxi dispatch system using various methods, including via a Wi-Fi connection, stolen tablets connected to the dispatch system, and by bribing someone to plant malware on computers connected to the system.

The Russian hackers remain at large, the Justice Department said.

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Related: Russian TrickBot Malware Developer Sentenced to Prison in US

Related: Canadian Man Sentenced to Prison for Ransomware Attacks

Related: DraftKings Hacker Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a managing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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