Mary­land man held in theft of fi­nan­cial data

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY AN­DREW BLAKE

Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties have ar­rested a Mary­land man who is ac­cused of par­tic­i­pat­ing in a years­long cy­ber­crime op­er­a­tion de­scribed by pros­e­cu­tors as “se­cu­ri­ties fraud on cy­ber steroids.”

Joshua Sa­muel Aaron, 32, of Potomac, Mary­land, was ar­rested at John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port in New York upon his ar­rival from Moscow on Wed­nes­day, the Jus­tice De­part­ment said in a state­ment.

Mr. Aaron and two Is­raeli co-de­fen­dants face charges re­lated to what the Jus­tice De­part­ment has called “the sin­gle largest theft of cus­tomer data from a U.S. fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion ever.”

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said Mr. Aaron is ac­cused of help­ing to con­duct a mas­sive com­puter hack­ing op­er­a­tion whose vic­tims in­cluded var­i­ous fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, brokerage firms and news pub­lish­ers, in ad­di­tion to mil­lions of in­di­vid­u­als who were in­di­rectly af­fected as a re­sult.

No­tably, the three men are ac­cused of in­fil­trat­ing JPMor­gan Chase & Co., the largest bank in the United States, and steal­ing data per­tain­ing to more than 83 mil­lion of its cus­tomers.

In an­nounc­ing charges against the trio in June 2015, Preet Bharara, U.S. at­tor­ney for the South­ern District of New York, said the sus­pects con­ducted “the sin­gle largest theft of cus­tomer data from a U.S. fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion ever” in ac­com­plish­ing the JPMor­gan hack. The names, ad­dresses, phone num­bers and other sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion of more than 76 mil­lion house­holds and 7 mil­lion small busi­nesses were com­pro­mised.

Ad­di­tion­ally, pros­e­cu­tors said, the men waged cy­ber­at­tacks against dozens of other ma­jor Amer­i­can com­pa­nies. Though un­named in charg­ing doc­u­ments, com­pa­nies that have con­firmed they have been tar­geted in­clude Fi­delity In­vest­ments Ltd., E*Trade Fi­nan­cial Corp., Scot­trade Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Inc. and Dow Jones & Co.

In com­pro­mis­ing var­i­ous facets of the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, the de­fen­dants were able to ma­nip­u­late the se­cu­ri­ties mar­ket in a man­ner that al­lowed them to gen­er­ate mil­lions of dol­lars in il­le­gal prof­its, pros­e­cu­tors said.

“For pur­su­ing what we have called ‘hack­ing as a busi­ness model,’ and thanks to the ef­forts of the FBI and the U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice, Aaron will now join his co-de­fen­dants to face jus­tice in a Man­hat­tan fed­eral court­room,” Mr. Bharara said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day.

A 22-count in­dict­ment un­sealed in June 2015 charged Mr. Aaron and his co-de­fen­dants, Gery Shalon and Ziv Oren­stein, with con­spir­acy to com­mit com­puter hack­ing, se­cu­rity fraud and ag­gra­vated iden­tity theft, among other crimes. The two Is­raelis were ex­tra­dited to the U.S. this year and pleaded not guilty upon be­ing ar­raigned in June.

Au­thor­i­ties had a harder time ap­pre­hend­ing Mr. Aaron, who en­tered Rus­sia weeks be­fore he was charged.

Of­fi­cials say Mr. Aaron trav­eled to Rus­sia from Ukraine in May 2015 and resided at an apart­ment near down­town Moscow un­til May, when he was jailed on charges of vi­o­lat­ing rules of his vis­i­tor’s visa.

Mr. Aaron un­suc­cess­fully ap­pealed that de­ci­sion in June, and he was sub­se­quently trans­ferred to a de­ten­tion center re­served for il­le­gal im­mi­grants, Bloomberg News re­ported this week.

Mr. Aaron waived ex­tra­di­tion and asy­lum in Rus­sia and vol­un­tar­ily re­turned to the U.S. “to re­spon­si­bly ad­dress the charges,” his at­tor­ney, Ben Braf­man, told CBS.

He pleaded not guilty in court Wed­nes­day to 16 counts re­lated to the mar­ket ma­nip­u­la­tion scheme.

If con­victed on all counts, he could face a max­i­mum penalty of 117 years in fed­eral prison, ac­cord­ing to NBC News.

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