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Inside the Russian tech world that bred hacking gang Clop and how to minimise your risks | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Unmasking the hackers

You might typically imagine hackers to be teenagers sitting at laptops in their bedrooms, coming up with code in the early hours of the morning, with their identities hidden by bizarre online aliases. In fact, says Shapiro, many do their work together in traditional offices and plenty of the key Russian figures allied to the Kremlin have been outed. 

“Not only do we know the names of the people in these units, but we can see their Facebook pages and find their social media presences. These are not just shadows, they’re real people.” 

Shapiro can even share Fancy Bear’s office address: 20 Komsomolsky Prospekt, a complex of beautiful 19th century buildings, less than two miles from the Kremlin, which houses the Khamovnichesky military barracks.  

“They go to work there every day,” he says. “If you look at the cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee in 2016, you can see they happened during the Russian business day.” 

He details in his book how the head of Fancy Bear’s hacking unit, Viktor Netyksho, assisted in drawing up the IT curriculum for Moscow high schools and has an agreement to recruit future hackers from these institutions. Netyksho’s photo was published last month after the Ukrainian hacking group Kiber Sprotyv, or Cyber Resistance, gained access to his wife’s email account.

Fancy Bear’s goals are political and military, but the private ransomware gangs are focused on making money – and lots of it. 

“We’ve seen cases where criminals made €300,000 [about £250,000] in a month,” says van der Wiel.  

“If they were smart, they would stop after a while if they have enough money. But just like many other criminals, it’s never enough for them, they just keep on going. It’s the same with traditional crime: a drug dealer on the street might make enough money to buy a decent house and car and then could retire, but still they want more. That means the chances of being caught become bigger.” 

Except in the safety of Putin’s Russia, that doesn’t matter. They may be given financial sanctions and banned from travelling to the West, with their faces staring out from the FBI website, but they won’t be prosecuted for pursuing UK, US and EU targets. 


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