Hack Heaven in Russia

The cyber-attack on Estonia during the Bronze Solider fiasco was not an aberration – thanks to a few legal loopholes, much of the world’s hackers, spammers, and scammers depend upon front companies in St. Petersburg and Moscow:

PERHAPS the most famous con artist of the Soviet era was a fast-talking, eye-winking, nimble-fingered, double-dealing journeyman named Ostap Bender. He was fictional, the antihero of a satirical novel about a quest for lost jewels called “The 12 Chairs,” but his casual disdain for the law reflected a widely held cynicism here. “This misdeed, though it does come under the penal code, is as innocent as a children’s game,” Bender says of a scheme to use a purloined document to steal another man’s identity. Were Bender to ply his trade these days, he would undoubtedly be sitting in front of a computer, spewing out e-mails that slyly ask for credit card information or hawk sexual aids and other flimflam. Russia has become a leading source of Internet ills, home to legions of high-tech rogues who operate with seeming impunity from the anonymous living rooms of Novosibirsk or the shadowy cybercafes of St. Petersburg. The hackers go by names like ZOMBiE and the Hell Knights Crew, and they inhabit such a robust netherworld that Internet-security firms in places like Silicon Valley have had to acquire an expertise in Russian hacking culture half a world away. The security firms have not received much assistance from the Russian government, which seems to show little interest in a crackdown, as if officials privately take some pleasure in knowing that their compatriots are tormenting millions of people in the West.

From the New York Times, “What’s Russian for ‘Hacker’?