Yousef Selassie is said to have deployed a sophisticated SIM-swapping technique to access 75 phones from his apartment in Brooklyn, New York. The 19-year-old is accused of ‘jacking’ phones across 20 states earlier this year.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office claims Selassie was able to reset victims’ passwords and access their cryptocurrency accounts by transferring their phone numbers to his own collection of iPhones.
Hackers can exploit a loophole in the security of two-factor authentication by swapping the phone’s SIM before contacting the service provider to activate a new SIM card. The victim’s personal data is then automatically ported to the hacker’s phone.
Of the 75 phone hacks Selassie is accused of committing, investigators say the stolen cryptocurrency came from just two accounts.
Prosecutors said that a search of the 19-year-old’s properties in New York and Corona – a quiet suburb of Los Angeles – uncovered numerous iPhones, Rolex watches and expensive jewellery.
He was arrested in California on December 5 before being returned to New York where he yesterday faced 87 counts of grand larceny, identity theft and related charges at the Supreme Court of Manhattan.
Selassie pleaded not guilty to all charges before being ordered by Justice Mark Dwyer to surrender his passport and attend a weekly supervised-release program. No bail was set.
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