Man who made millions blackmailing porn users jailed

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A computer hacker who made millions of pounds blackmailing people who visited pornography websites has been sent to jail.

Zain Qaiser, 24, was jailed for six years and five months at Kingston Crown Court on Tuesday.

The former computer science student used advertising spaces on legal pornography sites to infect victims’ devices with malware.

The malware showed users a screen impersonating the police services in their countries, demanding they pay a fine of between $300 and $1,000 (£220 and £760).

Working with an international Russian crime group that pocketed most of the millions, Qaiser personally received more than £700,000 for his part in the scheme, according to investigators.

He spent this money on luxury hotel stays, prostitutes, gambling and a Rolex watch, they said, adding that they believed the total was “likely to have been very much higher”.

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The National Crime Agency (NCA) described it as the most serious case of cyber crime they had ever investigated.

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Passing the sentence, Judge Timothy Lamb QC said: “The harm caused by your offending was extensive – so extensive that there does not appear to be a reported case involving anything comparable.

“Whatever your motivation for mounting these attacks on the internet, you took the opportunity to spend large sums of ill-gotten money in casinos, on an expensive watch and luxury hotel services.

“All the constituent offences were part and parcel of your role as the self-styled ‘K!NG’ of the internet.

“It has been asserted on your behalf you are remorseful. I have seen no outward expression of that.”

Qaiser, of Barking in east London, committed most of the crimes when he was 18 and 19 by purchasing advertising on pornography websites using fake identities.

According to the NCA, the crime group he was working with made millions of pounds from victims in more than 20 countries, although they said the total number of people who paid the so-called fine is unknown.

Pornography app

Image: Advertisements on legitimate pornography sites were used by the hacker

The prosecutor Joel Smith told the court that while some advertisers were “happy to turn a blind eye” to the hacker’s scam, others who tried to stop him “became the subject of the defendant’s anger”.

He then attempted to blackmail these sites, taking down their servers with denial of service attacks, apparently costing these businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The court heard that the hacker even threatened to spam these sites with images of child sexual abuse.

Although Qaiser initially denied the crimes and claimed to have been hacked, he entered guilty pleas to the 11-count indictment.

He admitted three counts of blackmail; three counts of fraud by false representation; four counts of doing an unauthorised act with intent to impair the operation of a computer; and one count of possessing criminal property.

The ransomware offences using the poisoned advertisements on pornography websites were committed between 2012 and 2014, while the money laundering took place between 2015 and 2018.

An earlier trial after Qaiser was first charged in 2017 was abandoned as the hacker was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

However, the court heard that while he was detained, the wifi at Goodmayes Hospital in north London was used to access the advertising websites which Qaiser had used for his offending.

He was arrested in December 2018 for laundering £120,000 while on bail.

Prosecutors said that they suspect Qaiser had stored more of his proceeds in offshore accounts, but they have been unable to trace this money so far.

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