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Hackers break into Russian prison computers to avenge Navalny | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


Russian hacktivists stole a database filled with details about hundreds of thousands of prisoners to avenge the February death of opposition leader Alexey Navalny hours after he died in an Artic penal colony, supposedly of sudden death syndrome.

Hackers were also able to plaster a picture of the 47-year-old on the prison contractor’s website, accompanied by a message reading “Long live Alexey Navalny!”

The tech-savvy protestors went every further: lowering the prices of goods on the prison system’s online commissary to one ruble, — about one penny, according to a Monday CNN report.

“We love our country and will return when it is free from the Putin regime. And we’ll go till the end on this path,” hackers reportedly wrote on one of the prison shop websites.

Hackers avenged the death of Alexei Navalny by hacking into Russia’s online prison infrastructure in the hours after his mysterious death. REUTERS
The group said it hoped the security breach would lead to the truth surrounding the death of the opposition leader. AFP via Getty Images

The hacking group then warned administrators not to remove pro-Navalny messages from the website, and destroyed a computer server when they did not oblige, according to the article.

Authorities realized within hours that prisoners were buying food for pennies on the dollar, but it took three days before prison IT staffers were able to rectify the situation, according to the source.

“We were watching the [access logs to the online store] and it just kept scrolling faster and faster with more and more customers making purchases,” the hacker reportedly said.

One of the purported anti-Kremlin hackers told the network they are sharing the stolen contact information of some 800,000 prisoners and their relatives “in the hope that somebody can contact them and help understand what happened to Navalny,”

The CNN report said hackers were able to corroborate the hackers’ claims by matching prisoner names in screenshots shared by the hackers with prison records.

A protester holds a sign depicting late Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny and reading ‘I’ll be back’, during a protest in Riga, on March 17, 2024, during the Russia’s sham presidential election, won again by Putin. AFP via Getty Images

SentinelOne cybersecurity expert Tom Hegel said the hackers “clearly had full blown access to get it all,” adding, “The amount of images captured and data provided is quite thorough.”

JSC Kaluzhskoe, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service which runs the prison store, and individual website administrators did not return a request for comment from the network.

The day after the breach, JSC Kaluzhskoe posted on the VK social media platform that a “technical failure” caused the “prices for food and basic necessities” to be “reflected incorrectly.”

The stunning breach was pulled off by a group of protesters that include Russian expatriates and Ukrainians, and came as “hacktivism,” or politically motivated hacking, has soared in Russia since the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

“Hacktivism has emerged as a powerful tool for diverse groups to express their perspectives, rally behind their nations, target perceived adversaries, and attempt to influence the trajectory of the war,” Hegel reportedly said.

The US has asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for the death of his biggest political opponent, who had been poisoned with a Soviet Union military-grade nerve agent in 2020, apparently at the behest of the strongman.

Navalny had been serving a 19 year prison sentence on trumped-up charges of extremism, fraud and contempt of court when he died under mysterious circumstances in a remote penal colony.

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