On Thursday, federal authorities announced that two men are accused of hacking social media accounts and emails of athletes in the National Basketball Association and National Football League — often extorting them and ransoming their log-in credentials for profit.
Ronnie Magrehbi and Trevontae Washington are charged “in separate criminal complaints with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse,” the Department of Justice release said.
According to officials, both men gained access to social media accounts from athletes in the two sports leagues, along with other online accounts including emails between December 2017 and April 2019.
The criminal complaint against Magrehbi says one phishing attempt resulted in explicit photos of an NFL player being posted to his Instagram and Twitter account on June 4, 2018.
While the documents only identify the athlete as “Victim-1,” the timeline syncs up with when NFL defensive end Avery Moss’ Twitter account was hacked and explicit videos and pictures of the player were posted — and then deleted — after NFL security got involved in June 2018, ESPN reported.
Washington allegedly obtained the log-in credentials for athletes by messaging them on social media sites with embedded links that “appeared to be legitimate social media log-in sites, but which, in fact, were used to steal the athletes’ usernames and passwords,” the release said. Washington is then accused of locking the stars out of their accounts, forcing them to pay an amount ranging from $500 to $1,000 in order to get access back.
According to the release, wire charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison with a fine up to $250,000 while computer fraud conspiracy charges carry a maximum of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
The cyber hacking of athletes has been a growing trend in recent years. Just before the 2020 Super Bowl, a “white hat” hacker group hijacked the accounts of the NFL and several teams. In the past months, players including Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young had their Twitter accounts hacked, which resulted in someone sending out inappropriate tweets.
SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Tribune – TJ MACIAS