Israeli man sentenced to 80 months in prison for providing hacker-for-hire services

Pierluigi Paganini November 18, 2023

An Israeli hacker has been sentenced to 80 months in prison in the US for his role in a massive spear-phishing campaign.

Aviram Azari (52) was sentenced to 80 months in prison for computer intrusion, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with his involvement in a massive spear-phishing campaign targeting companies and individuals in the U.S. and around worldwide. The man was arrested in September 2019 while traveling to the U. S. from abroad.

Azari orchestrated the international hacking-for-hire spearphishing campaign from his home in Israel. According to DoJ, the Israeli man netted over $4.8 million in criminal proceeds

Azari founded an Israel-based ‘intelligence firm’ named Aviram Hawk or Aviram Netz. The company helped its customers to manage “Projects” that were officially described as intelligence-gathering efforts, but that actually were hacking campaigns specifically targeting certain groups of victims.

“From approximately November 2014 to September 2019, AZARI engaged in an extensive spearphishing campaign that targeted individuals and companies in the U. S. and around the globe.” reads the press release published by DoJ. “AZARI paid different hacking groups, including a particular group located in India, to send spearphishing emails to victims of the various Projects.  The hacking groups updated AZARI on their progress, including sending him lists that tracked their hacking efforts against specific victims.  The hackers also sent AZARI reports, advising when they were successful in accessing victims’ accounts and stealing information.”

DoJ revealed that one of AZARI’s hacking Projects aimed at individuals and organizations involved with climate change advocacy.  The man and his accomplices stole documents from the victims’ online accounts and leaked them to the press, resulting in articles relating to the New York and Massachusetts Attorneys Generals’ investigations into Exxon Mobil Corporation’s knowledge about climate change and potential misstatements made by Exxon regarding what it knew about the risks of climate change.   

Targeted entities also included hedge funds and journalists.

Investigators obtained evidence of 100 successful attacks against Azari’s targets, however, experts believe that the number of hacked entities can be 100 times higher.

The man has been also sentenced to an additional three years of supervised release and forfeiting the $4.84 million that he made through the scheme. 

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, spear-phishing)

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