Romanian Hackers Charged With Disabling Police Cameras Before Inauguration

(CN) – Two Romanian nationals have been arrested and charged with disabling more than 120 D.C. Metropolitan Police Department surveillance cameras ahead of President Trump’s inauguration last January, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Mihai Alexandru Isvanca, 25, and Eveline Cismaru, 28, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit various forms of computer fraud. Authorities say the two men disabled the cameras as part of a scheme to distribute ransomware.

They were arrested on Dec. 15, at the Otopeni airport in Bucharest, Romania.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, the Secret Service was notified on Jan. 12, 2017, that a number of surveillance cameras had been compromised, and an investigation revealed they’d been knocked off line between Jan. 9 and Jan. 12. Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20.

“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,” the Justice Department said in a written statement.

“In partnership with MPD’s Chief Technology Office, the Secret Service and MPD quickly ensured that the surveillance camera system was secure and operational prior to the Inauguration and continued to investigate the criminal offenses charged,” the DOJ said.

In an affidavit supporting the criminal complaint released Thursday, prosecutors say the investigation also revealed that ransomware variants, called “cerber” and “dharma,” had been stored on the computers connected to the surveillance cameras, in hopes to spread by email to at least 179,000 email addresses.

The arrests were made with the assistance of The Netherlands’ National High Tech Crimes Unit, the U.K.’s National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police, as well as Romania’s national police force, according to the police statement.

The two men remain in Romania, awaiting extradition.  Isvanca is in police custody; Cismaru in under house arrest.

If convicted, each man faces up to 20 years in prison.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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