United Arab Emirates media this week reported that a group of hackers who gained access to the email accounts of five senior White House officials have been jailed.
The attack took place in 2015, and the hackers have subsequently been prosecuted and sentenced. Dubai police confirmed that the criminals will be turned over to US authorities once they complete their prison terms in the UAE.
The group allegedly wrote threatening emails demanding money, although the details of these messages, including the sum demanded, is not yet known.
Dubai police has not responded to repeated calls for comment, but it did confirm some facts about the attack.
Speaking to Arabic-language newspaper Al Bayan, Major Saud al-Khalidi of Dubai police’s cybercrime division claimed that the perpetrators were an “African gang” – later confirming that they are, specifically, Nigerian – and that the emails they gained access to included “highly confidential information.”
Authorities in the US asked Dubai’s police to assist in the criminals’ capture, al-Khalidi stated, and provided some information on the suspects. The information did not include their identities or places of residence, but an investigation quickly traced the gang to an apartment in the emirate of Ajman, 28 miles north of Dubai.
Three suspects, aged between 24 and 26, were apprehended in an apartment building. The police searched the building and discovered “electronic devices, financial remittance documents, hacking software, bank accounts, and a list of electronic bank accounts”.
The three people arrested are believed to have entered the United Arab Emirates years earlier on tourist visas – which are typically valid for six months.
According to al-Khalidi, they were professional hackers who were selling the information they obtained to individuals across the world. No information has been released about whether or not the White House information was sold or transferred.
The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi did not respond to requests for comment.
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