Jailed Russian hacker: I hacked Democrats ‘under the command’ of Russian intelligence agents

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visit the Resurrection New Jerusalem Monastery at Istra, outside Moscow, Russia November 15, 2017.  Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS
Russia’s
President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visit
the Resurrection New Jerusalem Monastery at
Istra

Thomson
Reuters


  • A Russian hacker told a Moscow court in August that he
    was ordered to hack the Democratic National Committee by
    Russian intelligence agents at the FSB.
  • The hacker was arrested in mid-2016 on charges relating
    to his work with a notorious hacking collective.
  • Kozlovsky’s work with the FSB could undermine the
    Kremlin’s repeated claims that it had nothing to do with DNC
    hacks in late 2015.

A Russian hacker believed to be a member of a hacking collective
called Lurk said in court over the summer that he was ordered by
Russia’s security services, known as the FSB, to hack the
Democratic National Committee.

The hacker, Konstantin Kozlovsky, told a Moscow court in August
of this year that his nine-member hacking group — which has been
accused of stealing over $17 million from Russia’s largest
financial institutions since 2013 — has been cooperating with the
FSB for several years, according to the independent Russian news outlet The Bell.
Part of that cooperation included hacking the DNC, he
said.

Kozlovsky said during a hearing on August 15 that he “performed
various tasks under the supervision of FSB officers,” including a
DNC hack and cyberattacks on “very serious military enterprises
of the United States and other organizations.”

Minutes from the hearing, as well as an audio recording, were
posted on Kozlovsky’s Facebook page. The
Bell said it confirmed their authenticity with two sources,
including a person who was present at the hearing. Kozlovsky also
posted a letter that he wrote
on November 1, 2016. The letter outlined what he said was his
work for the FSB, which he said had spanned nearly a decade and,
most recently, involved attacking the DNC servers.

Kozlovsky identified his FSB handler as Dmitry Dokuchaev, a
cybersecurity expert who worked as a hacker under the alias
“Forb” before joining the FSB. Dokuchaev has been linked to a
group of hackers known as Shaltai Boltai, or Humpty Dumpty, that
has published emails from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and
other Kremlin officials.

The cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike publicly concluded in June
2016 that hackers associated with the FSB breached the DNC in
late 2015. WikiLeaks published internal committee emails during
the Democratic National Committee in July 2016.

He ‘did everything they said’

Kozlovsky also named Ruslan Stoyanov, a key cybercrime
investigator at the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky who was
arrested last December along with Dokuchaev and Sergei Mikhailov,
the deputy head of the information security department of the
FSB.

Mikhailov has been accused of
giving US intelligence officials information
about a
server-rental company,
King Servers
, through which Russian hackers have been known
to attack the US, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported last
December. The Bell reported earlier this month that he could soon
be charged with treason.

Dokuchayev and Stoyanov have been in pretrial detention since
last December on treason charges, according to independent
Russian news outlet Meduza.

If confirmed, Kozlovsky’s work with the FSB could undermine the
Kremlin’s repeated claims that it had nothing to do with DNC
hacks during the 2016 campaign. And it would fit a consistent
pattern in which Russian intelligence officials recruit skilled
hackers to engage in cybercrime.

Hiring elite criminal hackers, or cultivating them from a young
age, has allowed Russian intelligence agencies like the FSB and
the GRU (Russia’s military intelligence arm) both to improve
their foreign espionage capabilities and keep potentially rogue
hackers under government control. 

The New York Times’ Andrew Kramer
reported on this phenomenon
last December, writing that
“for 

more than three years, rather than rely on
military officers working out of isolated bunkers, Russian
government recruiters have scouted a wide range of programmers,
placing prominent ads on social media sites, offering jobs to
college students and professional coders, and even speaking
openly about looking in Russia’s criminal underworld for
potential talent.”

“If you graduated from college, if you are a technical
specialist, if you are ready to use your knowledge, we give you
an opportunity,” one of these ads read, according to the
Times. 

Kozlovsky, for
his part, wrote in his November 1 letter that he began
cooperating with the FSB in 2008, when he was just 16 years old.
He said he was recruited by Dokuchaev and “did everything they
said.”

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