What Happened to the Teen Who Stole $23.8M in Cryptocurrency?

What Happened to the Teen Who Stole $23.8M in Cryptocurrency?

on Sunday July 10, 2022 @03:34AM from the high-school-heists dept. 15-year-old Ellis Pinsky stole $23.8 million worth of cryptocurrency — and his life was never the same . For example, Rolling Stone reports, in his last year of high school, “Four men wearing ski masks and gloves, armed with knives, rope, brass knuckles, and a fake 9 mm,” crept around the back of his home in the suburbs: Two weeks before the break-in, a lawsuit had been filed against him, and news stories had circulated connecting him to the hack. He knew that the thieves wanted this money, the millions and millions of dollars he had stolen. He also knew that he couldn’t give it to them. He didn’t have it. Not anymore. The magazine paints the portrait of “an anxious young man in Invisalign braces” who describes the revelation he’d had at the age of 13. “The internet held such secrets. All he had to do was uncover them.” As he soon found, there were plenty of people working to uncover them all the time, and willing to share their methods — for a price…. Realizing that a lot of the information social engineers used came from hacked databases, he began teaching himself to program, particularly to do the Structured Query Language injections and cross-site scripting that allowed him to attack companies’ database architecture. The terabyte upon terabyte of databases he extracted, traded, and hoarded made him valuable to OGUsers as well as to others, like the Russian hackers he was able to converse with thanks to his fluency with his mother’s native language… By the time he was 14, he tells me, “I think it’s fair to say I had the capabilities to hack anyone.” The article describes him as “attending high school by day and extracting the source code of major corporations by night…. He was 14 years old and taken with the thrill of possessing a hidden superpower, of spending his nights secretly tapping into an underground world where he was esteemed and even feared. And then, in the morning, being called downstairs to breakfast.” He wrote a Python script to comb through social media networks and seek out any mentions of working for a [cellphone] carrier. Then he’d reach out with an offer of compensation for helping him with a task. Every fifth or sixth person — underpaid and often working a short-term contract — would say they were game, as Pinsky tells it. For a couple hundred dollars’ worth of bitcoin, they’d be willing to do a SIM swap, no questions asked. Eventually, Pinsky says, he had employees at every major carrier also working for him. Then the stakes got even higher. It was only a matter of time before OG hackers, known to each other as “the Community,” realized that if they could use the SIM-swapping method to steal usernames, they could just as easily use it to steal cryptocurrency… In one massive heist Pinksky stole 10% of all the Trigger altcoins on the market from crypto impresario Michael Terpin . (“As Pinsky’s money launderers were converting it, the market was crashing in real time.”) Pinsky recruited a crew to launder the money — at least one of which simply kept it — but even with all the conversion fees, he still made off with millions. And then… For a while, he half-expected the FBI to knock on his door at any moment, just like in the movies; but as time passed, he grew less anxious…. He says he moved on to learning different types of programming. He ran a sneaker business that used bots and scripts to snap up limited pairs then flip them… He went to soccer practice. He and his friends had started hanging out with girls on the weekend, driving down to the docks where you could see the glowing lights from the Tappan Zee Bridge. Until Terpin figured out it was Pinsky who’d robbed him: Pinsky and his legal team preempted his arrest by contacting the U.S. attorney directly and offering his cooperation. In February 2020, he voluntarily returned every last thing he says he got from the Terpin heist: 562 bitcoins, the Patek watch, and the cash he’d stored in the safe under his bed…. When I ask if he has also worked with the FBI to help bring down other hackers, he blinks quickly and then changes the subject. Pinsky has not been criminally charged — partly because he was a minor, but also because of his cooperation with law enforcement. But filing a civil suit, Terpin wants to be compensated with triple the amount stolen, arguing that the teenager who robbed him was running an organized crime racket and that he should be heavily punished to set an example. Rolling Stone ‘s article raisees the question: what should happen next? ←

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