In exchange for $10, two Americans were charged with conspiring to hack John F. Kennedy International Airport’s taxi dispatch system.
Taxi dispatch is computer-controlled software that makes sure that taxis leave the airport holding lot in order to take the next fare at the terminal.
Taxis must usually wait for several hours before they are summoned by the dispatcher.
The system was created to ensure fair operation for taxi drivers working in areas with high demand.
Hacking the dispatcher system
The U.S. Department of Justice published an unsealed Indictment yesterday. It stated that two men named Daniel Abayev, and Peter Leyman with Russian hackers, broke into the JFK taxi dispatch system in September 2019, and September 20,21.
Members of the Hacking Society also exchanged messages in which they discussed the possibility to hack into the Dispatch System. ABAYEV, for example, sent the following message to one Russian hacker in Russian on November 10, 2019: “I know the Pentagon is being hacked [.]..” Can we hack into the taxi industry[.] ]” – U.S. Department of Justice.
According to the DOJ, hackers created a service to pay for taxis at JFK by allowing them to get to the front line quickly and getting dispatched to their destination.
The scheme required taxi drivers to pay $10 in cash, or mobile payments to participate. Promoting the service to colleagues will be granted waivers that allow them to skip the queue for no cost.
Chat apps were used to communicate with the hacker drivers via private group chats. Leyman and Abayev would announce “Shop open” or “Shop closed”.
“To skip the taxi queue, taxi drivers would text their taxi number into group chat threads. A member of the hacking team would then message the terminal where the driver would go in order to get a fare and skip the taxi lines,” says .
Law enforcement has seen spreadsheet documents that indicate the hacking scheme helped taxi drivers to make approximately 2,500 trips each week. The hackers were able to assist with 600 trips on record, including December 9, 2019.
Indictment claims also that Abayev, Leyman and others transferred $100,000 to hackers in Russia. Transaction justifications include “payment for the development of software”
Both men are facing charges of conspiring to commit computer intrusion and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
The two hackers must be found guilty and forfeit any property that is directly or indirectly connected to their offenses.