Two Americans, Daniel Abayev and Peter Leyman, were arrested for hacking the Kennedy Airport taxi dispatch system with the help of Russian citizens, reports Engadget. From September 2019 to September 2021, they charged drivers $10 to jump ahead of the taxi line at Kennedy Airport. Usually, these cars are sent on a first-come, first-served basis.
“For years, the defendants’ hacking kept honest cab drivers from being able to pick up fares at JFK in the order in which they arrived,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “Now, thanks to this Office’s teamwork with the Port Authority, these defendants are facing serious criminal charges for their alleged cybercrimes.”
According to an indictment by the US Department of Justice, the two men explored various ways to break into Kennedy Airport’s taxi dispatch system, from bribing people to inserting a flash drive with malware into a computer, stealing tablets, and logging into the system via Wi-Fi. At one point, Abayev corresponded with one of the Russian hackers:
“I know that the Pentagon is being hacked[.]. So, can’t we hack the taxi industry[?]”
The pair used chat threads to communicate with drivers, some of whom also had their $10 fee waived if they could recruit others. Abayev and Leyman have been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carry a maximum 10-year sentence in prison. Their history is linked to a series of Russian cyberattacks over the past decade, including the 2016 hack of Florida voter databases, a decade-long malware scheme to steal millions, and the 2014 NATO data breach.