Two men have been charged for their alleged role in hack from last year from the Drug Enforcement Agency web portal, as previously reported by Gizmodo. In posted a press release Earlier this week, the Justice Department said Sagar Steven Singh and Nicholas Ceraolo stole a police officer’s credentials to access a federal law enforcement database they used to blackmail victims.
Prosecutors claim 19-year-old Singh and 25-year-old Ceraolo are members of a hacking group called Vile, which often steal victims’ personal information and then threaten to dox them online if they don’t receive payment. While the DOJ does not explicitly say which agency Singh and Ceraolo allegedly hacked, it states that the portal “contains detailed, non-public records of narcotics and currency seizures, as well as reports from law enforcement intelligence.” This follows with a report of Krebs on security that indicates the hack is related to the DEA.
According to the complaint, Singh used the information from the federal portal to threaten his victims, and in one instance wrote to an individual that he would harm their family unless they gave him the credentials to their Instagram accounts. He then added the social security number, driver’s license number, home address, and other personal information collected from the government’s database to his threat.
False requests for emergency data are becoming more and more common.
“By means of [the] portal, I can request information about anyone in the US, no matter who, no one is safe,” Singh wrote to the victim. “You’re going to obey me if you don’t want anything negative to happen to your parents.”
Meanwhile, Ceraolo used the portal to obtain the email credentials of a Bangladeshi police officer. Ceraolo allegedly posed as the officer during his correspondence with an unnamed social media platform and convinced the site to provide a specific user’s home address, email address and phone number under the guise that the victim was “participating in ‘extortion of children’, blackmailed and threatened the government of Bangladesh.” Ceraolo reportedly similarly attempted to scam a popular gaming platform and facial recognition company, but both declined the requests.
The Ceraolo scam is becoming more and more common. Last year, one report Bloomberg revealed that Apple, Meta, and Discord fell victim to similar tricks where hackers posed as police officers looking for emergency data. While law enforcement sometimes asks social media sites for information about a particular user if they are involved in a crime, this requires a subpoena or search warrant signed by a judge. However, emergency data requests don’t need this kind of approval, something hackers take advantage of.
As indicated by Krebs on securityhas Ceraolo actually been described as a security researcher in numerous reports crediting him for exposing security vulnerabilities related to T-Mobile, AT&TAnd Cox communications. Law enforcement officers raided Ceraolo’s home in May 2022 before searching Singh’s residence in September.
While Singh was arrested Tuesday in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Ceraolo turned himself in shortly after the DOJ announced its indictment. According to the DOJ, Ceraolo faces up to 20 years behind bars for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and both Ceraolo and Singh could face five years in prison for conspiracy to commit computer break-ins.