Romanian Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges in Hacking of Metropolitan Police Department Surveillance Cameras
Computer Attack Stemmed from Ransomware Scheme
WASHINGTON – Eveline Cismaru, a citizen of Romania, pled guilty today to federal charges stemming from her role in a conspiracy to illegally access approximately 126 computers associated with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) surveillance cameras and to use those computers in connection with a scheme to distribute ransomware in January 2017.
U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, and Brian J. Ebert, Special Agent in Charge, Washington Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, made the announcement.
Cismaru, 28, and a co-defendant, Mihai Alexandru Isvanca, 25, were arrested on Dec. 15, 2017, in Bucharest, Romania. Both were charged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Isvanca, also of Romania, remains held there pending extradition to the United States. Cismaru, who fled Romania weeks after her arrest, was apprehended in the United Kingdom on March 23, 2018, and extradited to the United States on in July 26, 2018.
Cismaru pled guilty before the Honorable Dabney L. Friedrich to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud. The charges carry statutory maximums of 20 years and five years in prison, respectively. The guilty plea calls for Cismaru to cooperate fully in the investigation. She is to be sentenced Dec. 3, 2018.
According to the government’s evidence, beginning in early January 2017, and continuing through Jan. 12, 2017, a computer hacking attack on the MPD computer network disabled two-thirds of the outdoor surveillance cameras operated by MPD in the District of Columbia, just days before the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. At the time of the computer intrusion, the U.S. Secret Service, among other federal law enforcement agencies, was preparing security for the event. During national events like the Presidential Inauguration, federal agencies such as the Secret Service utilize MPD’s surveillance cameras to provide additional security.
The computer intrusion was used to execute a ransomware attack. Once activated, the ransomware locked 126 infected computers connected to MPD surveillance cameras. The ransomware then displayed instructions explaining how to unlock each computer by the payment of Bitcoin. The ransom, had it been paid for all 126 computers, would have totaled an estimated $60,800. While executing a ransomware attack, the conspirators converted a few of the computers into proxies and used those computers to disseminate additional ransomware and malware attacks. At the time investigators disrupted the scheme, the conspirators were in the process of attacking as many as 179,616 other computers using stolen e-mails, e-mail passwords and banking credentials.
This case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service’s protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. Due to the rapid response by investigators and MPD’s Chief Technology Office, the overall security of the 2017 Inauguration was not impacted by this event. The Secret Service and MPD quickly ensured that the surveillance camera system was secure and operational prior to the Inauguration and continued to investigate the criminal offenses charged, leading to the arrests last December.
The investigation revealed no evidence that any person’s physical security was threatened or harmed due to the disruption of the MPD surveillance cameras.
The investigation into this matter was conducted by the Secret Service’s Washington Field Office. Assistance was provided by law enforcement partners in the National Crime Agency and Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom, the Netherland’s National High Tech Crime Unit, the Romanian National Police (Service for Combating Cybercrime), Europol, MPD, and the FBI’s Washington, D.C. and Houston Field Offices. The Office of International Affairs of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division provided significant assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. Dominguez and Demian Ahn, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Diane Brashears, of the Cyber Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The case was investigated and indicted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John P. Dominguez and Corbin Weiss, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Jennings, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Chela Okonji.