65% of DC Cameras Hacked Before Inauguration
Computers used to distribute ransomware; 2 Romanians charged
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 29, 2017 6:14 AM CST
Surveillance cameras are visible near the US Capitol in Washington on Oct. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

(Newser) – Romanian hackers infiltrated 65% of outdoor surveillance cameras in Washington, DC, ahead of President Trump's inauguration as part of an extortion scheme only now being made public, according to a criminal complaint. The complaint, filed in DC and unsealed Thursday, accuses Romanians Mihai Alexandru Isvanca, 25, and Eveline Cismaru, 28, of hacking 123 of the city's 187 outdoor police cameras over four days in January 2017, leaving them temporarily unable to record footage, report CNN and the Washington Post. All the cameras were OK by the big day. An affidavit says the individuals—believed to be part of a hacking network—took over the computer system that operated the cameras and began sending ransomware emails to about 180,000 email addresses. Authorities say they planned to lock users out of their computers until they received payment.

DC police first noticed a malfunction in the cameras on Jan. 12. A Secret Service agent then detected the hack. Authorities fixed the problem by taking the cameras offline, wiping them clean, and rebooting them by Jan. 15, five days ahead of Trump's inauguration. No ransom payments were made. "This case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service's protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration," a spokesman for US Attorney Jessie K. Liu says, per the Post. Isvanca and Cismaru were arrested in Bucharest on Dec. 15 along with three others who face charges in Europe, reports the BBC. Prosecutors plan to seek extradition for the pair soon. The Post notes that it's not clear the alleged hackers knew they had infiltrated a police computer system.

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