During 2018 we saw a number of SIM swap hack stories sweep through the headlines, it seems that last year really was the year for innovative cyber crime.
SIM Swapping ia a hack that essentially allows the hacker to access a victims phone by mirroring their phone number and getting the victims mobile service provider to provide a ‘SIM swap’, this means the phone becomes registered to a new SIM, one that is accessed by the hacker, meaning the hacker is able to receive verification codes that allow them to log on to the victims cryptocurrency wallets etc.
Once access is gained, they are able to lift funds from the wallets by being able to legitimately bypass one-time passwords, verification codes and two-factor authentication that comes through as a text message or a phone call.
2018 saw a huge volume of reports surface regarding these sorts of scams, simply because they are quite easy to execute and in theory, the hackers are pretty hard to trace too. According to new reports however, it seems the first wave of criminals behind these SIM swap attacks may no longer be safe from the grip of the law, as one prolific hacker has now been sentenced to 10 years behind bars, according to The Hacker News.
“Joel Ortiz, a California man, is the first person to receive jail time for this crime, after pleading guilty to stealing more than $5 million in cryptocurrency from 40 victims. Rather than facing trials and severe consequences imposed by the jury, Ortiz chose to accept a plea deal for 10 years last week, according to Deputy District Director Eric West of Santa Clara County, California. However, the official sentencing of Ortiz is set to take place on March 14th.”
The charges will fall under identity theft, grand larceny and computer tampering and scheme to defraud.
How to protect yourself from SIM swap attacks
Firstly, you should never reveal your personal data to anyone. These hacks can only occur once the hackers have extracted a certain amount of personal information, without this, they can’t get your SIM swapped by your network provider. Next, you should opt for offline storage options for your cryptocurrencies, by storing them in a cold wallet, offline, hackers can’t access your cryptocurrencies via the internet and thus, your assets are far more secure.
We hope to see more strong sentences issued against those found guilty of hacks of this nature in the future in the hope that it deters these individuals from striking again.