They interfere in other countries’ elections, penetrate government networks and steal millions of dollars. Just how dangerous is Russia’s cyber army?
When Olga Maltseva worked for a troll farm the rules were very clear: “Russia is always good. Everyone else is bad.” But the trolls are just the tip of the iceberg. Because for years, Russia’s hackers have played a leading role in the global underworld. “There are at least 150,000 cyber criminals and hackers in the Russian-speaking world. At least!” claims Sergei Pavlovich. In the 1990s, he was part of a close knit group of the world’s top hackers, before being imprisoned and going clean.
But many hackers in Russia are allowed to operate unchallenged. Maxim Jakubets is the FBI’s number one most-wanted hacker with a bounty of five million euros on his head. He created malware that led to the loss of tens of millions of dollars. But far from being on the run, Jakubets lives a comfortable life is Russia.
For years now, the Kremlin has been systematically trying to use the well-trained hackers for its own benefit. In exchange for freedom and protection, they do the dirty work of the state. As journalist Lilija Yapparova explains “Political secrets are of no use to hackers. For them it is more profitable to steal databases or money directly. But hackers can get access to these secrets and that’s why certain authorities are interested in hackers digging deeper.”
Acclaimed journalist Paul Moreira investigates how Russia manipulates public opinion, undermines democratic governments and attempts to alter world events.More info