A 23-year-old from the UK has been imprisoned for hacking British pop star Ed Sheeran and American rapper Lil Uzi Vert and then selling their unreleased songs on the dark web.
Ipswich resident Adrian Kwiatkowski has been sentenced to 18 months in prison on 19 counts of copyright infringement, illegal access to computers, and selling unauthorized music, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
A search of the hacker’s Apple Mac laptop uncovered 565 audio files, including the music he stole from Sheeran and Vert after hacking their digital accounts. He offered to sell two unreleased songs by Sheeran and 12 unreleased songs by Vert in exchange for bitcoin on illegal websites.
According to the City of London Police, he made £131,000 – or more than $148,500 – from selling the music he stole.
“We will be pursuing ill-gotten gains from these proceeds of crime,” Chief Crown Prosecutor Joanne Jakymec said.
“Kwiatkowski had complete disregard for the musician’s creativity and hard work producing original songs and the subsequent loss of earnings,” she said.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office initially launched the investigation in 2019. It came after the management of several musicians reported that an individual known as Spirdark had gained access to their accounts and was selling the content saved there online.
The US authorities linked the email address used to set up Spirdark’s cryptocurrency account to Kwiatkowski. They also identified the IP address of the device used to hack one of the accounts as his home address.
The case was then referred to the City of London Police, which arrested Kwiatkowski in September 2019 after further investigation.
“Cybercrime knows no borders, and this individual executed a complex scheme to steal unreleased music in order to line his own pockets,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L Bragg, Jr. said.
Among seven devices the British police seized during the investigation was a hard drive that contained 1,263 unreleased songs by 89 artists and a document summarizing the deployed method for stealing them. The police also seized bitcoin during the search.
“Kwiatkowski was a highly skilled individual who unfortunately saw potential in using his abilities unlawfully,” Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt said, adding that he “deprived” artists of the ability to release their work.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to charges against him and also confirmed he acted under the Spirdark alias.
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