Hacker sentenced for blackmailing Apple with iPhone account reset

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Hacker from North London gets 300 hours of unpaid work and six-month electronic curfew for trying to blackmail Apple in 2017 by threatening to reset 319 million iCloud accounts

A hacker from North London who tried to blackmail Apple has been sentenced following a police investigation, announced the National Crime Agency (NCA)

Kerem Albayrak, 22, was given a two-year suspended jail term, and was sentenced to 300 hours of unpaid work and a six-month electronic curfew at Southward Crown Court on Friday.

An investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) found phone records showing Albayrak was the spokesperson for a hacker group calling themselves "Turkish Crime Family".

On 12 March 2017, he emailed Apple Security claiming to have iCloud account details that he planned to sell online. The hacker demanded Apple give him US$ 75,000 (£58,000) in cryptocurrency or a thousand x US$ 100 (£77) iTunes gift cards in return for deleting his database. 

A week later, he filmed himself accessing two apparently random iCloud accounts. A video was posted on YouTube and sent the link to Apple security, as well as multiple media outlets. Two days later, the demand increased to US$ 100,000 (£77,000) and a threat to factory reset every iCloud account in his possession.

Apple contacted law enforcement in the UK and the US, and the NCA led the UK side of investigation. On 28 March 2017, officers from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit arrested Albayrak at his home address in north London. Digital devices were seized including his phone, computers and hard drive. No other people have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Investigators and Apple later confirmed that there were no signs of a network compromise. The data Albayrak claimed to have was actually from previously compromised third-party services, which were mostly inactive.

Albayrak told investigators he had been "sucked into" the world of cyber-crime and "it just escalates and it makes it interesting when it’s illegal".

He added that "when you have power on the internet it’s like fame and everyone respects you, and everyone is chasing that right now", read the NCA statement.

Earlier this month, Albayrak pleaded guilty to one count of blackmail, having already admitted to  two counts of unauthorised acts with intent to impair the operation of or prevent/hinder access to a computer.

Anna Smith, a senior investigative officer for the NCA, said Albayrak wrongly believed he could escape justice after hacking into two accounts and attempting to blackmail a large multinational corporation.

"During the investigation, it became clear that he was seeking fame and fortune. But cybercrime doesn’t pay," she said. "The NCA is committed to bringing cyber-criminals to justice. It is imperative that victims report such compromises as soon as possible and retain all evidence."

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