Twin brothers acclaimed to be educational geniuses graduating from George Mason University at a young 19-years-old have pleaded guilt to hacking into the State Department’s computer systems to steal passport data.
Just four years later the twins facing hacking charges, Muneeb and Sohaib Akhter, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization, and conspiracy to access a government computer without authorization, the FBI reported last Friday in their press release.
Muneeb Akhter pleaded guilty to additional charges his brother, Sohaib, did not, including charges of accessing a protected computer without authorization, making a false statement and obstructing justice, the FBI said.
Muneeb was accused of hacking into a cosmetic company’s website to steal thousands of customers credit card numbers and personal information in March of 2014.
Akhter brothers and their co-conspirators used the stolen information to purchase luxury services including flights, hotel reservations and even attend professional conferences. Muneeb also exchanged the stolen credit card information with an anonymous individual he had met on the dark net who sold the information on Muneeb’s behalf where they split the profits.
Akhter twins and their gang were accused of breaking into the computer networks of the U.S. Department of State in an attempt to steal sensitive passport information, visa information and other valuable documents pertaining to the State Department’s computer system internal workings.
Sohaib was accused of abusing his contract position at the State Department to access sensitive computer systems containing personally identifiable information belonging to dozens of State Department current, former and past employees.
To maintain access to the State Department computers, Sohaib devised a plan in which he would attempt to install a secret electronic collection device within a State Department building. Once the device is installed, it would allow Sohaib and his gang to remotely access the State Department computer systems. However, Sohaib was forced to abort the mission when the electronic collection device broke while he was trying to install it behind a wall at a State Department location.
While Muneeb was performing contract work for a private data aggregation company in November of 2013, he hacked into the company’s database of federal contract information so that he and his twin brother could harvest the information to tailor bids and win contracts and clients for their successful technology company.
Muneeb was accused of loading scripts into client’s company servers that forced the machine to vote for Akhter in an online contest and send out some 10,000 emails to students at George Mason University, for the sole purpose of harvesting contest votes.
Additional charges Muneeb suffers from include him lying on a government background check which landed him the contract job within the State Department, and for obstructing justice by trying to hinder law enforcement’s investigation on a co-conspirator. Muneeb drove the co-conspirator to the airport and purchased a boarding pass for the anonymous individual to travel overseas to the Republic of Malta. Once the individual returned, Muneeb often advised him to steer clear of law enforcement holdups.
The Akhter brothers were indicted by a federal grand jury on April 30. Muneeb faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, while his brother, Sohaib, faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years. Akhter twins are scheduled to be sentenced September 25th.