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Syrian Electronic Army Member Pleads Guilty to Hacking, Extortion

A member of the Syrian Electronic Army hacker group arrested earlier this year in Germany has pleaded guilty to hacking and extortion charges before a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Peter “Pierre” Romar, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to receive extortion proceeds and conspiracy to unlawfully access computers. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the man faces up to five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for October 21.

Romar had been residing in Germany, where he was arrested by local law enforcement just before U.S. authorities announced the charges against Syrian Electronic Army members. He was extradited to the United States in May.

The Syrian Electronic Army surfaced in 2011 and it was active until recently, when authorities in the United States announced criminal charges against three of the group’s members. The hacker collective breached the systems of many high-profile targets in support of the Syrian regime, including government and media organizations.

According to authorities, Romar and another SEA member, 27-year-old Firas Dardar, known online as “The Shadow,” were also involved in an extortion scheme that targeted organizations in the U.S. and other countries. The cybercriminals breached the systems of various companies and threatened to damage their computers and data unless they paid a specified amount of money.

Since victims could not send the money directly to Dardar in Syria due to sanctions, Romar acted as an intermediary in Germany. U.S. authorities are aware of 14 victims, from which the hackers demanded more than $500,000, although in many cases the amount of the ransom was negotiated and eventually lowered.

Dardar and 22-year-old Ahmad Umar Agha, the SEA member known as “The Pro,” are still at large, and they are believed to be residing in Syria. The FBI has been offering $100,000 for information leading to their arrest.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing 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.