Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Evil (Cyber) Empire: Inside The World of Russian Hackers

Yulia Taratuta, Igor Ivanov, Svetlana Zaitseva, and Mikhail Zygar write on

The assaults may seem to be political. In 2007, a cyberattack on Estonia, home of the popular Internet phone company Skype, paralyzed the country's entire government. Then, when the Russia-Georgia conflict flared in 2008, software suddenly became available to anyone wanting to wage their own personal cyberwar on the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. And later that year, Lithuania too became a cyber-victim when it vetoed negotiations between Russia and the European Union. Indeed, NATO takes the threat of cyber-warfare so seriously that it signed off on a special report on the topic during its parliamentary assembly last October. "Although there is no conclusive evidence that the cyberattacks in Georgia were executed or sanctioned by the Russian government," the NATO report notes, "there is no evidence that it tried to stop them, either."

Russian lawmaker Nikolai Kovalyov angrily dismisses these allegations as propaganda from the Cold-War era. "The report does not contain a single piece of evidence of the mythical Russian cyberthreat or a Russian trail from the cross-border cyberattacks," he says. Still, NATO has little doubt that—official or no—the attacks have a common Russian thread: the Russian Business Network (RBN), a shadowy cyberstructure that is reported to have sold hacking tools and software for accessing U.S. government systems. According to the NATO investigators, however, political subversion is little more than a sideline for these hackers. Their real goal: stealing money through scams, spam, and infiltrating the networks of Western banks.

More here.


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