Cryptocurrency hacking has taken a big turn. California authorities said a 20-year-old college student hijacked more than 40 phone numbers and stole $5 million worth of bitcoin, including some from cryptocurrency investors at a blockchain conference Consensus.
Back on July 12th in California, a college student was arrested for being a participant in a group of crooks that allegedly hacked numerous cell phone numbers. The 20-year-old Joel Ortiz from Boston hacked the phone numbers with the assistance of his unnamed collaborators. He was nabbed from L.A. International Airport minutes before he was to catch a plane headed to Europe. Ortiz is facing a total of 28 charges, 13 of those for hacking, another 13 for identity theft and 2 charges of grand theft.
This was actually the very first case ever reported from individuals using SIM hijacking or SIM swapping, a technique that has been gaining popularity, to allegedly steal bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as well as social media accounts. Ortiz and his accomplices were purposely targeting individuals who were involved in the blockchain and cryptocurrency world. Allegedly, while the Consensus conference was in session in New York City back in May of this year, Ortiz and his group hacked a large number of victims.
SIM swapping involves deceiving a cell phone service provider such as T-Mobile or Verizon into transferring the phone number of a target over to a different SIM card that the hacker controls. Once the criminal gets their target’s phone number, they can then leverage that number to reset their target’s passwords and essentially hack into their online accounts (common accounts include cryptocurrency accounts). This can still work, in some instances, even if the victim’s account has two-step authentication protection in place. This “port out scam” attack can be pulled off relatively easily and it has essentially become pretty widespread, according to a recent investigation by Motherboard.