When hackers get caught

by Black Hat Middle East and Africa
When hackers get caught

Welcome to the new 91 cyber warriors who joined us last week. 🥳 Each week, we'll be sharing insights from the Black Hat MEA community. Read exclusive interviews with industry experts and key findings from the #BHMEA23 keynote stage.

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This week we’re focused on…

What happens when criminal hackers get caught. 🚨


Because in December 2023, a 18-year-old hacker from the Lapsus$ criminal group was sentenced to indefinite detention in the US, as reported by Reuters. The sentence came after the teenager undertook a series of high-profile attacks – including hacking both Uber and Revolut, as well as blackmailing the developers of the video game Grand Theft Auto. 

These offences also took place while the hacker was already on police bail. 

According to prosecutors, the hacker caused almost USD $3 million of damage to Uber and accessed about 5,000 customers’ information on Revolut. A psychiatric assessment found that he was not fit to stand trial, and his detention is taking place in hospital. 

What happens when hackers get caught?👀

It depends. Like any criminal activity, there’s a wide spectrum of possible penalties depending on the type and severity of the crime, the impact it had, and the laws and regulations in the place where it happened.

Generally speaking, consequences might be monetary fines, penalties, or prison sentences. 

Hackers who didn’t get away with it 🔎

High-profile hackers who didn’t get away with it include…

  • Albert Gonzalez. In 2005, while in his early twenties, Gonzalez masterminded the biggest credit card theft ever recorded. He created backdoors in SQL and stole millions of dollars from US retailers. In March 2010 he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, and he was reportedly released in September 2023.
  • Mathew Bevan and Richard Pryce. Back in 1996, these two Welsh teenagers hacked into a number of military networks. They took research from the Korean Atomic Research Institute (KARI) and dumped it into US military networks – coming very close to triggering a serious international incident, and exposing critical vulnerabilities in military computer systems in the process. Pryce received a fine of £1,200, and all charges against Bevan were dropped. Bevan went on to work for Nintendo, and in 2014 he launched Mitnick’s Absolute Zero Day Exploit Exchange – a site selling critical software exploits.
  • José Luis Huertas. One of the most prolific hackers to come from Spain (and also a teenager), Huertas was arrested in 2023 after being under investigation by police for almost two years. His exploits were numerous – including breaching government networks to steal data from 575,000 taxpayers, and then creating a search engine to sell that data to other hackers. He remains in custody until his trial. 

These are just a few of many

Cybersecurity can feel like a shadowy battleground, with threat actors hiding out of reach. But malicious hackers do get caught – and their arrests are a reminder that while much of their activity takes place in virtual spaces, the impact of that activity is very real. 

Not all hackers are bad. And in fact, ethical hackers can help organisations outwit malicious ones. The skills involved in hacking are not bad skills: it’s the purpose for leveraging them that defines a malicious or an ethical hack. 

Join us at Black Hat MEA 2024 to learn directly from the world’s best ethical hackers – and strengthen your resilience against cyber criminals. 

Do you have an idea for a topic you'd like us to cover? We're eager to hear it! Drop us a message and share your thoughts. Our next newsletter is scheduled for 17 January 2024.

Catch you next week,
Steve Durning
Exhibition Director

Join us at Black Hat MEA 2024 to grow your network, expand your knowledge, and build your business.

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