Sunday, March 12, 2017

Russia used a cybercriminal's botnet for a spying campaign

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Russia isn’t commenting, but it’s no shock that the US imposed sanctions on Bogachev and other hackers. Ukranian officials have outright asserted that Bogachev is working “under the supervision of a special unit of the FSB.” Moreover, Russia lets him operate freely — he’s believed to be living in a resort town under his own name with no fear of arrest. And he’s not alone. Security researchers report that Russia frequently recruits hackers from forums when conducting surveillance, turning a blind eye to their illegal behavior so long as they don’t commit crimes within Russia.

As for what can be done? Not much beyond the sanctions. It’s difficult to produce completely undeniable evidence of links between thieves and state-sponsored operations, and it’s doubtful Russia will take any action so long as people like Bogachev focus on foreign targets. More than anything, this underscores the challenges of identifying and catching government-supported hackers. Investigators sometimes have only indirect clues as to who’s really responsible, and they can’t usually retaliate beyond either symbolic punishments or thwarting the hacks in question.

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