ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) – Cypriot national Joshua Polloso Epifaniou has pleaded guilty to to stealing user data from multiple major websites based in the United States and extorting them to prevent his release of the data, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Atlanta.

Epifaniou is the first Cypriot national to be extradited from Cyprus to the United States.

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According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine, the charges and other information presented in court Include:

  • Between at least October 2014 and November 2016, Epifaniou was a teenage hacker in Cyprus who searched website traffic rankings to identify potential targets of his extortion scheme.
  • After selecting targets, Epifaniou worked with co-conspirators to steal personally identifiable information from user and customer databases at victim websites.
  • Epifaniou stole the sensitive information either by directly exploiting a security vulnerability at the websites or by obtaining a portion of the victim website’s user data from a co-conspirator who had hacked into the victim network.
  • Once the personally identifiable information was obtained, Epifaniou used proxy servers located in foreign countries to log into online email accounts and send messages to the victim websites threatening to leak the sensitive data unless a ransom was paid in cryptocurrency.

During his scheme, Epifaniou’s victims included:

  • An online sports news website owned by Turner Broadcasting System Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia;
  • A free online game publisher based in Irvine, California;
  • A hardware company based in New York, New York;
  • An online employment website headquartered in Innsbrook, Virginia;
  • A consumer report website headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.

Prior to the plea, Epifaniou paid nearly $600,000 in restitution to the victims, and Epifaniou agreed to forfeit an additional $389,113 and nearly 70,000 euros to the government in his plea agreement.

On September 19, 2017, Joshua Polloso Epifaniou, 21, of Nicosia, Cyprus, was indicted on one count of wire fraud conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, one count of computer fraud conspiracy, and one count of extortion related to a protected computer. In addition, Epifaniou pleaded guilty to one count of computer fraud in a 24-count indictment transferred from the District of Arizona for purposes of his plea.

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Sentencing is scheduled for March 3, 2021.