UK & World News
Hackers Jailed For Casino Blackmail Attack
Two Polish computer hackers who unleashed a cyber attack to blackmail an online casino business out of millions of pounds have been jailed.
Piotr Smirnow, 31 and Patryk Surmacki, 35, were described by their own defence has having embarked on a "bizarre, misconceived, naive and brazen attempt of blackmail".
The pair pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to two charges each of blackmail and unauthorised acts on computers.
Manchester Crown Court heard that the computer programmers approached the owners of two large online casino businesses and asked for a meeting.
One of the victims, who cannot be named, ran a Manchester-based online gaming site worth an estimated £30m, the court heard.
On July 23, 2013, Smirnow contacted the victim and asked to meet him as he said he had a business proposition.
He initially declined but Smirnow persuaded him to meet both him and Surmacki at Heathrow Terminal 5, the court heard.
During the meeting the pair demanded a 50% stake in the online casino company and said if the offer was declined they would "take down" the online casino's servers, effectively stopping the website from operating.
Smirnow and Surmacki said they knew a notorious computer hacker called 'Wapo' in the United States and said they would pay him to perform an attack on the company servers.
The cyber attack, know as a distributed denial of service (DDOS), a mass attack on computer servers designed to overwhelm the system, can bring down even the biggest, most sophisticated websites, the court was told.
On August 2 this year they carried out their threat and paid the American hacker £12,000.
Smirnow later admitted carrying out the attack in a Skype call to another victim, saying: "You have to understand last time we tried diplomacy, we talked, did call, meet etc.
"After that we understand only power talks in this world, now we have enough power so people can't try to push us around anymore."
The British victim alerted police in Manchester and told them he was being blackmailed.
A meeting was set up at a hotel next to Heathrow Airport on August 7 and a room was bugged by detectives.
The victim refused to cooperate and the men said they were now "going to war". The two Polish men left the room and were arrested by police.
Sentencing the pair to five years and four months each, Judge Michael Henshaw said: "What you wanted was a share of the business and in order to achieve that the victims of the offences had to know who they were dealing with.
"The offences were a demonstration of what you can do in order to reinforce a threat.
"You took the law into your own hands in the belief that your methods would achieve immediate result.
"The victims of these offences knew the consequences of this type of attack could be potentially devastating.
"But what you didn't count on was the victims telling the police, which they did."
Detective Inspector Chris Mossop, of the Serious Organised Crime Division, said: "This was a very complex, dynamic investigation that centred on an emerging global cyber threat.
"They used their intimate, expert knowledge of online business to attempt to bully the victims into submission.
"But make no mistake, they may have been using the latest technology, but this was simply good old-fashioned blackmail.
The British victim, said: "I am grateful for the assistance to me provided by the police in this matter.
"This case made me fear for my personal safety as well as for the future of my business. Which is why I felt compelled to take action against the perpetrators.
"No-one should have to succumb to blackmail and this sentence should act as a warming to those involved in cyber extortion that the police and the courts will view this type of conduct very seriously."
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