Cybercrime in 2021: the year in review
This year saw a series of high-profile busts, arrests, sanctions, and prison time for some of the most prolific cybercriminals in recent history. Joseph James O’Connor, a member of the hacking group that breached Twitter, was sentenced to five years in prison for hijacking high-profile Twitter accounts to spread a crypto scam. Shakeeb Ahmed, a former Amazon employee, pleaded guilty to hacking into a cryptocurrency exchange and stealing millions worth of customers’ crypto. Meanwhile, a Russian man accused of ransomware attacks burned his passport to avoid extradition and remains out of reach of the authorities.
The hermit kingdom of North Korea ramped up cyberattacks on popular crypto wallets and major crypto projects to fund its sanctioned nuclear weapons program. North Korean hackers targeted software companies in efforts to gather data on crypto customers. In other cases, the FBI identified the mastermind behind a credit card checking operation that allowed criminals to identify active card numbers, earning the Russian national over $18 million in illicit proceeds.
The administrator of the cybercrime forum BreachForuns, known as Pompompurin, was busted by the FBI for selling stolen data and possessed child abuse imagery. The notorious hacking group Qakbot, responsible for delivering ransomware to companies, was targeted in a successful FBI takedown operation, but recent infections suggest the group persists. Lastly, a teenager involved with the prolific Lapsus$ hacking group was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order due to his skills and desire to continue committing cybercrime.