Cypriot hacker gets more jail time in US

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A young hacker who became the first-ever Cypriot citizen extradited to America has been jailed for 12 months and one day after pleading guilty to committing cyber-crimes before a court in Georgia.

The prison term comes on top of the nearly four years Joshua Pelloso Epifaniou has already served in custody since his arrest in Cyprus in May 2017.

“Cybercrime is a threat to both our individual privacy and to the security of American companies,” said Acting US Attorney Anthony Martin.

“We will work diligently alongside our law enforcement partners to ensure any perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.”

Epifaniou pleaded guilty to federal computer fraud charges brought in Arizona and the Northern District of Georgia.

As a result of the conviction, Epifaniou forfeited $389,113 and €70,000 to the government and paid $600,000 in restitution to his fraud victims.

Epifaniou, now 22, was extradited to the US on July 16, 2020, where he faced charges in both Arizona and Georgia for crimes committed from his bedroom in Nicosia when he was still a minor.

The maximum sentence for the charges he faced is 20 years.

Between October 2014 and May 2017, Epifaniou hacked websites and monitored online traffic to identify extortion targets.

After selecting target websites, he worked with co-conspirators to steal personally identifiable information from the websites’ databases.

Epifaniou then used proxy servers located in foreign countries to log into email accounts and send messages to the websites threatening to leak the sensitive data unless a ransom was paid in cryptocurrency.

Initially arrested in Nicosia in May 2017 at 17, he spent more than three years in a Cypriot jail without being convicted and fighting extradition.

The victim companies include a free online game publisher based in Irvine, California; a hardware company in New York; an online employment website headquartered in Innsbrook, Virginia; and an online sports news site owned by Turner Broadcasting System Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia.

“This individual was preying on people for his own personal gain,” said Sean Kaul, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Phoenix Field Office.

“FBI agents, analysts and support staff worked tirelessly on this case.

“This investigation should send a strong message that the FBI has a long reach and no matter where you are, we will continue to leverage all available resources and utilize partnerships in the United States and foreign partnerships to identify criminals in an effort to bring justice to victims of crime.”

The Cypriot’s legal team had hoped that Epifaniou would do a time-served sentence only as he had pleaded guilty and provided restitution.