Israeli Private Eye Sentenced Over Hack-for-Hire Scheme
Aviram Azari Pleads Guilty to Global Wire Fraud
An Israeli private investigator was sentenced to nearly seven years in federal prison on Thursday for orchestrating a worldwide hack-for-hire scheme. Aviram Azari, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit hacking, and aggravated identity theft in April, was sentenced in the Southern District of New York.
According to the Department of Justice, Azari coordinated hacking campaigns on behalf of unnamed parties from 2014 to 2019, earning $4.8 million for his services. He hired hackers, including a group from India, to gain access to specific targets' email accounts. The hackers used spear-phishing emails to redirect their victims to servers that imitated legitimate web pages. By doing so, they were able to harvest their targets' login credentials.
Several high-profile climate change activists, including individuals from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Rockefeller Family Foundation, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the Climate Investigations Center, were among Azari's known victims. The hacked communications of these activists were leaked to media outlets and published in articles related to investigations into Exxon's awareness of climate change risks.
Prosecutors stated in a sentencing memo that the leaked news articles appeared to have been designed to undermine the integrity of the state attorneys general's investigations into Exxon or the reputation of individuals working at non-profit organizations involved in influencing the state attorneys general to investigate Exxon.
Exxon, however, has denied any prior knowledge of Azari or the hacking campaign. The company incorporated the "stolen and leaked" material into court filings related to state investigations into its operations.
Investigations have confirmed more than 100 successful hacks orchestrated by Azari and his team. The sentencing of Azari serves as a significant milestone in the fight against cybercrime and highlights the importance of safeguarding personal and corporate information in an increasingly interconnected world.
The case also underscores the ongoing threat posed by hackers and the need for individuals and organizations to remain vigilant against cyberattacks. As technology advances, so do the tactics employed by those seeking to exploit vulnerabilities for personal gain.