A 20-year-old hacker steals 5 million bitcoins

Joel Ortiz, a young 20-year-old student from Boston, United States, was arrested at the Los Angeles airport on his way to Europe, the reason? He is being accused of being the head of a group of hackers dedicated to stealing cryptocurrencies.

California authorities mentioned that Ortiz has complaints from more than 40 people who allegedly hijacked their mobile phone numbers, which would have helped steal more than five million dollars in cryptocurrencies, mainly bitcoins.

The 'SIM swapping' attacks again

Ortiz is the first reported case in the United States of theft of cryptocurrencies using 'SIM swapping', a technique that is starting to become very popular for attacks, just remember the case of the recent Reddit hack. The 'SIM swapping' is to trick the mobile operator into transferring a victim's phone number to a SIM owned by the hacker.

Once the attacker has the SIM with the number of his victim, the next step is to change his passwords, mainly email and social networks, as well as their cryptocurrency portfolios as in this particular case. When having the telephone number, it does not matter that the accounts are protected by two-step authentication via SMS, since everything is received in the hijacked SIM.

Joel Ortiz faces a total of 28 charges: 13 for identity theft, 13 for hacking and two for major theft. All the demands come from cryptocurrency investors and participants in the last Consensus conference, which took place in New York last May, and which focuses on blockchain and cryptocurrency issues.

According to the first data of the investigation, Ortiz belongs to the group called OGUSERS, who are responsible for hacking and exchanging accounts of famous and important people on Twitter and Instagram, where the goal is always to try to steal cryptocurrency.

In all cases, the victims reported that their mobile phone number had died, and when they approached with their operator to retrieve it, that is when they noticed the theft. Among those affected, there is an investor who lost a million and a half in bitcoins, and an entrepreneur who lost a million.

According to the investigators, Ortiz had already attacked an investor from whom he hijacked his number twice before, between February and March, resetting his Gmail passwords and accessing his cryptocurrency portfolios. They even claim that Ortiz used the number to call and threaten his victim's wife and daughter.

The authorities had to exert pressure on the technological.

Allied Alforcement, a group of cyber crime specialists from the California police, was the department in charge of investigating Ortiz's activities. They sent requests for information to the operator AT & T, where they requested the registration of calls of the stolen numbers while they were kidnapped, with which they found two IMEI that pointed to two Samsung smartphones with Android.

Once they had the IMEI of smartphones, the next thing was to contact Google to ask for all the data connected to those smartphones. This is where they found a Gmail account and a Microsoft account, which showed Ortiz's activity, such as password changes, conversations with other OGUSERS members and data for the SIM swapping. As well as evidence of the exchange of bitcoins in sites such as Coinbase, Bittrex and Binance, where they claim there are millionaire movements.

Also, AT & T also provided a document with all the numbers that were activated in those IMEI during the month of May, and that is how they discovered that more than 40 had been affected, since only some of them reported. Once they had the numbers, the next thing was to call the owners and ask if they had suffered any theft during May, which was decisive to take legal action against Ortiz.

The authorities say that so far they have managed to confiscate $ 250,000 from Ortiz in Bitcoins, but they have not been able to find the rest of the money in other cryptocurrencies.

To this day, Ortiz is incarcerated in California and has been set bail of one million dollars, although this August 9 his hearing will be held where he is expected to plead guilty and offer to help capture the rest of OGUSERS members. Something that, in theory, will help you reduce your sentence.