[ISN] Russian hackers pose an increasing threat

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Thu Aug 12 03:13:54 EDT 2004


11 August 2004  

At the end of last month, police arrested members of an online
extortion ring that cost British companies up to $110 million.

Russia, with its highly educated workforce and inefficient police
force, has become infamous for computer piracy and crime.

"People used to be scared of the Russian mafia. Now they are scared of
Russian hackers," police Lieutenant-general Boris Miroshnikov told
President Vladimir Putin last Wednesday, according to Itar-Tass news

Last month, British police announced a joint operation had smashed a
small group of Russian hackers who had extorted money from British
banks and betting firms.

But Russian police said this particular racket was just the tip of the

"There are no more attacks against these specific companies, but
no-one is safe from such attacks," says Yevgeny Yakimovich, head of
the interior ministry's section K, which battles high-tech criminals.

"All firms with money are under threat, no-one is safe ... Any
organisation with access to the internet is open."

He declined to name the British companies affected. In the scheme,
which operated for nearly a year and cost the firms as much as $115
million in lost business and damages, hackers overloaded targeted
computers by swamping them with information.

Rather than lose a day's business, the firms paid the hackers money to
stop them from attacking their computers again. The young Russians
hackers netted about $63,000 before being caught.

The Government has frequently ordered police to intensify the fight
against computer crime. But one of the problems they face is that
hackers can be based far apart.

Those arrested in the joint Russian-British operation were based in
Moscow, St Petersburg and near the Volga town of Saratov and may never
have physically met.

"Every year the amount of crimes goes up. There were 233 last year,
and there have been more than 600 already this year," says Yakimovich.  
"This goes on every day but we don't always hear about it."

Police said most hackers were young and educated, worked more or less
independently and did not fit most police profiles of criminals.

It was not clear exactly how many were detained last week. They have
not been charged yet, but could face up to 15 years in prison if
convicted of extortion.

"This was not a normal organisation. Everyone sat at home and everyone
had their role," says Valery Syzrantsev, head of the interior
minister's investigations department. "These are really not the kind
of criminals we are used to dealing with."

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