In a high-profile case, two teenagers from the United Kingdom have been accused of being key members of the notorious hacking group Lapsus$. Prosecutors claim that these individuals were involved in hacking activities targeting prominent companies, including Nvidia Corp., Rockstar Games Inc., and Uber Technologies Inc.
The individuals at the center of this case are Arion Kurtaj, an 18-year-old, and a 17-year-old boy whose name cannot be disclosed for legal reasons. They are facing joint charges that include serious computer misuse, blackmail, and fraud against BT Group Plc and Nvidia.
Additionally, Kurtaj faces separate accusations related to hacks into Uber, Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto, and fintech firm Revolut Ltd.
The accused individuals are currently facing a criminal trial in London. Prosecutors have alleged that Kurtaj hacked into the systems of Revolut, Uber, and Rockstar Games in September of the previous year, all while he was already on bail for other charges.
The trial, expected to last eight weeks, will determine the liability of Kurtaj for the alleged crimes, considering his medical condition has rendered him unfit to stand trial.
Prosecutors argue that Kurtaj and other unidentified members of Lapsus$ played a pivotal role in stealing commercially-sensitive code and video content related to Rockstar Games' popular Grand Theft Auto series.
It is alleged that Kurtaj posed as a contractor within the company and leaked the hacked materials on various forums. Furthermore, he is accused of soliciting a ransom payment in exchange for not publishing the stolen intellectual property.
Due to medical reasons, Kurtaj's trial will only determine his liability, not his guilt. If found liable, he will avoid imprisonment. On the other hand, the 17-year-old boy has pleaded guilty to two charges related to the hacks on BT while denying involvement in the other allegations.
Prosecutors claim that the two teenagers, working in collaboration, hacked into Nvidia in February 2022 by gaining control of two contractors' accounts. Through this unauthorized access, they obtained sensitive company data, including software components crucial to Nvidia's product development.
The hackers reportedly stole a substantial amount of data, totaling around one terabyte, and publicly released a portion of it. To coerce Nvidia into compliance, they demanded a ransom payment, threatening to expose the remaining data online.
In addition to the Nvidia hack, the accused individuals are also implicated in hacking activities targeting BT's EE network. Between July and November 2021, they infiltrated the network's servers and issued threats to release the network's source code unless a ransom was paid.
The teenagers also engaged in SIM swap fraud, a technique used to drain the cryptocurrency and bank accounts of multiple customers.
Lawyers involved in the case argue that the actions of these teenagers were not mere juvenile pranks but rather a sophisticated and modern criminal endeavor aimed at generating monetary gains.
The accused individuals, with their technical prowess, hacked into companies and subsequently attempted to extort them by threatening to publish confidential material online unless their demands were met. Furthermore, they exploited the hacked materials for fraudulent purposes, according to the prosecutors.
Investigators managed to link the accused individuals to the hacking activities through various means, including IP addresses associated with email accounts, mobile devices, and Telegram messaging platform accounts. Additionally, the teenagers frequently boasted about their hacking exploits online, further solidifying the connection between them and the crimes they are accused of.