Syrian Electronic Army Member Pleads Guilty to Hacking Scheme, Partner Still at Large
A Syrian refugee living in Germany pled guilty Wednesday to passing money to extortionist hackers in his home country.
Peter Romar, 37, was part of the Syrian Electronic Army collective, a group of hackers devoted to targeting and compromising computer systems in order to provide support to the regime of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad.
Romar was arrested in Germany in March and extradited to the U.S. in May where he has already spent six months in prison.
Romar pled guilty in Alexandria, Va., federal court to felony charges of conspiring to receive extortion proceeds and conspiring to unlawfully access computers. Romar’s alleged co-conspirators Ahmad Umar Agha and Firas Dardar are still at large and believed to be in Syria. Both of whom are on the FBI’s list of “Most Wanted” cybercriminals.
Romar and Dardar would take over a company’s computer systems and demand a ransom payment to stop deleting data. If a victim was unable to send money to Syria, the funds would be routed to Romar in Germany.
Agha and Dardar are separately accused of attacking U.S. organizations, including: Harvard University, The Washington Post, the White House, USA Today, NASA and Microsoft. Using emails designed to look as though they came from a trusted source, the pair would allegedly gain access to websites and social media accounts and deface them with pro-Assad messages, according to The Washington Post.
“Today’s guilty plea is by the latest international offender who believed that he could operate from abroad, behind the perceived veil of anonymity offered by the Internet, and use computers to threaten the security of our citizens and their property,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “It shows that the Department of Justice and the FBI stand behind their pledge to hold accountable foreign actors who assist in the hacking of U.S. victims.”
Romar faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and will be sentenced on October 21. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the NASA Office of the Inspector General, the Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security and other law enforcement agencies.
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