US charges Romanians with hacking police cameras before Trump inauguration


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has charged two Romanian nationals, alleging that they hacked the Washington police department's surveillance cameras days before U.S. President Donald Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration, the Department of Justice said on Thursday.

Mihai Alexandru Isvanca and Eveline Cismaru were arrested in Romania on Dec. 15 over the incident, which compromised Washington's Metropolitan Police Department camera computers as part of a ransomware scheme, the Justice Department said in a statement.

"This case was of the highest priority due to its impact on the Secret Service’s protective mission and its potential effect on the security plan for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration," the statement said.

U.S. officials said the alleged conspiracy compromised the city police department's camera computers between Jan. 9 and Jan. 12 but did not threaten anyone's physical security.

It did, however, store two ransomware variants called "cerber" and "dharma" on police computers, the statement said.

The two Romanians also intended to email the ransomware to 179,000 email addresses, according to the statement. "The investigation also identified certain victims who had received the ransomware or whose servers had been accessed during the scheme," it said.

Isvanca and Cismaru were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit various forms of computer fraud, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the Justice Department said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Katanga Johnson; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and David Gregorio)