College Student Steals $5 Million In Cryptocurrency After Hijacking Victim’s Phone Numbers

  • Joel Ortiz, a 20-year-old college student, reportedly stole $5 million in cryptocurrency.
  • The digital currency was stolen after Ortiz hijacked the victim’s phone numbers and used them to hack their crypto accounts.

Joel Ortiz, a 20-year-old college student, was recently arrested after reportedly stealing more than $5 million in Bitcoin (BTC). Ortiz and a few unnamed others allegedly hacked over 40 phone numbers belonging to crypto traders and investors, as per court papers shared by Motherboard’s website.

Based on reports, the college student used a simple SIM-swapping method that exploited the security system of the victim’s phone carrier by replacing their phone number with a SIM accessible to the criminals. Ortiz then used the hacked phone numbers to obtain access to the users’ two-factor authentication (2FA) codes.

Consensus Blockchain Conference

The student was then able to log into the victim’s crypto accounts, change their passwords, and steal their digital currency. Authorities believe this incident is linked to the popular Consensus Conference that was held in New York in May, during which over $1.5 million in cryptocurrency was reportedly stolen from a blockchain professional.

The court papers also noted that Ortiz had been involved in a number of other attacks reported in February and March 2018. One of the victims is believed to have been targeted multiple times when Ortiz changed their passwords and locked the user out of their accounts, while also enabling his own two-factor authentication.

Warrants Sent To AT&T And Google

After gaining control of the crypto investor’s account, Ortiz sent a message to his family stating, “TELL YOUR DAD TO GIVE US BITCOIN” through iMessage. Police officers were eventually able to trace the college student’s malicious activities and proceeded to send a warrant to AT&T (his phone carrier).

The warrant required the phone service provider to submit a call record to the authorities, which was used to determine the dates on which Ortiz hacked the phone numbers. After the investigation it was found that the international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) number of the hacker belonged to Ortiz’s Samsung smartphone.

In order to further track the college student’s criminal activities, Google was also sent a warrant, which was used to obtain email addresses and other personal information linked to Ortiz’s phone. This led to evidence that has helped the authorities recover about $250,000 worth of cryptocurrency stolen by Ortiz. The police stated that they are currently unable to locate the rest of the stolen funds but are still investigating the incident.

Ortiz was arrested on July 12th at Los Angeles International Airport where he was about to board a plane to Europe. His arrest came just one day after 28 charges had been filed against him, which include 2 counts of grand theft, 13 counts of identity theft and fraud, and 13 counts of exploitative hacking.

In reference to this incident, the court papers stated,

This is the first reported case against someone who allegedly used the increasingly popular technique known as SIM swapping or SIM hijacking to steal bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and social media accounts.

Bitcoin's Hashrate Bounces Back as Price Flirts With $10,000 Mark

Bitcoin’s hashrate is seemingly recovering and moving towards new all-.time highs, after enduring an initial 40% drop after the block reward halving, that saw rewards on the BTC blockchain drop from 12.5 BTC to 6.25 per block.

CryptoCompare data shows that the flagship cryptocurrency’s hashrate hit an all-time high above 130 EH/s ahead of the block reward halving, and endured a 40% drop to 81 EH/s as smaller mining operations started struggling to make a profit.

Bitcoin's price and hashrateSource: CryptoCompare

As the price bitcoin kept on rising after the halving and got close to the $10,000 mark, the cryptocurrency’s hashrate started moving back up to reach a high of 120 EH/s before seemingly dipping again. It’s worth noting that daily hashrate values may periodically rise and drop significantly because of the randomness in blocks mined.

Even if the hashrate is constant, the number of blocks being mined per day varies as the mining machines solve the computational problems to find them. The mining hashrate likely bounced back as a price rise may have helped smaller mining operations become profitable again.

As CryptoGlobe reported, the price of bitcoin broke the $10,000 mark shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump finished a speech on law and order. It then dropped below the psychological $10,000 mark after a flash crash on BitMEX dragged its price all the way down to $8,600, and it has been recovering since.

John Bollinger, creator of the popular technical analysis tool Bollinger Bands, has tweeted out he believes it is time to be “cautious or short” on the price of bitcoin, believing the rise above $10,000 was a head-fake. A head-fake occurs when the price of a security moves in one direction initially, but then reverses its course and moves in the opposite direction.

Featured image via Pixabay.