Streetwise Professor

January 16, 2014

Putin Targets the US. (Pun Intended.) What Don’t You Get About That?

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:19 pm

I am sure you will be stunned–utterly gobsmacked, in fact–to learn this, but the hack on Target and other major retailers during the Christmas shopping season has Russian fingerprints all over it:

Parts of the malicious computer code used against Target’s credit-card readers had been on the Internet’s black market since last spring and were partly written in Russian, people familiar with the report said. Both details suggest the attack may have ties to organized crime in the former Soviet Union, former U.S. officials said.

Don’t you just love that last formulation?  FSU.  So, you know, this could be an Uzbek hacking ring.

Because we just can’t possibly utter the word “Russia.” After all, we depend on Putin for so much.  Peace in Syria.  A rapprochement with Iran. Mustn’t cross him, now! (And note that former officials have to be quoted, meaning that current officials daren’t utter a word that even indirectly implicates Russia.)

The article notes that this was an extremely sophisticated attack that was undetectable by anti-virus software. (Hmm.  Why didn’t Kaspersky discover this and announce it to the world, like Stuxnet.  Is he slipping?  Or is he, shall we say, selective and discriminating in what he discovers and reveals to the world?)

What are the odds that the FSB-and hence Putin-were unaware of this? Their monitoring of electronic communications in Russia is ubiquitous.  Moreover, it is well-known that they let hackers operate–for a share of the take.

Meaning that the odds are vanishingly small.

In other words, the Russian security apparatus was almost certainly complicit in targeting Target.  In targeting you.  While you were out trying to buy something nice for your kids or your mom for Christmas.

The outrages pile up, one after the other. Snowden. FU, US deals between Iran and Russia.  All-in support to a murderous regime in Syria. And now, almost certainly, brazen mass theft during the Christmas season.

Yet the administration is utterly supine.  Who knew anyone could have so many cheeks? Again: no current administration people could be find to say anything even off-the-record.  Instead, our Secretary of State yucks it up by giving the Foreign Minister of Russia, Lavrov, two potatoes (?!?).  (Which were oddly elongated in shape, sort of like Kerry’s head.  Do they have Mr. Potatohead in Russia? If so, oh the fun they could have!  Secretary Potatohead!)

I am so glad-so glad-that Putin is the defender of traditional Christian values. After all, he never tires of telling us so.

Oh. I forgot.  I am supposed to be totally up in arms that the NSA is collecting my metadata.  Totally.  Like NSA gives a crap whom I call or text–as long as those calls don’t intersect with some jihadi in Yemen, or the like.

So yeah.  Snowden can lecture us about how we are living in the New 1984, and frighten us with new tales of metadata collection of foreigners, while people in his host nation (almost certainly with the complicity of the government) are stealing us f*cking blind by taking our actually important personal financial and identity information to the bank.

If we buy into this, we deserve everything we get.  Everything.

Wake up, people.  If you are more afraid of the NSA, which yes collects massive amounts of information but does so under a set of elaborate set of institutional and legal constraints for national security purposes, than you are of an utterly unconstrained and malign government in Russia that provides protection to utterly ruthless and avaricious hackers who are out to empty your bank account, and likely shares in their take, you are an idiot.

And more.  Remember the Snowden story before this one: that the NSA is actively attempting to penetrate computers in Russia.  That is a feature, not a bug, people. We should be damned glad they are doing that–even if we should be appalled that this information is being splashed across the front pages. If the Target hack, which traces back to Russia, doesn’t convince you of that, I can’t help you.

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  1. Was it specifically Russians, though? “Former Soviet Union” also includes a couple poor countries like Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltics. I’ve heard the eastern Europe in general tends to be a prominent source of cyber-crime, although the Russians are definitely a big part of that.

    Comment by Brett — January 16, 2014 @ 10:12 pm

  2. It’s more interesting than what you say. The NY Times article actually mentions that the attacks were traced to a person who calls himself “Hel”. The reporter doesn’t know this, but Hel is actually a famous “patriotic hacker” who’s been involved in attacks on Navalny. I think it’s generally believed that he’s on the government payroll. This story has A LOT more room to develop.

    Comment by aaaa — January 18, 2014 @ 3:00 am

  3. @aaa-Interesting. A couple of other stories came out today. Target data made its way back to a Russian server. And the developer of the malware is a Russian teen. I will write an update this evening.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 18, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

  4. @aaa-I must say that I’m shocked that a NYT reporter doesn’t know important facts. Not really.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 18, 2014 @ 4:24 pm


    “A month ago I met Pavel Vrublevsky, the founder of payment system Chronopay, a person who is сalled in the USA cybercriminal No. 1. During that meeting Vrublevsky told me that no “hacker Hell” exist.

    — While known expert of blog sphere Vladimir Pribylovsky is sure that hacker Hell — is Sergey Maksimov living in Germany, — I objected.

    — I don’t say that Maksimov — invented character. I say that “hacker Hell” — is only “a drain tank” for legalization of illegal perlustration of correspondences. Maksimov — most likely – the agent of CIS (Center of Informational Security of FSB of Russia. — I.M.)

    Sinodov had already been approached for such information, back in 2007. At that time, he decided to ask the FSB for official confirmation. He soon received it, in the form of a request from the address ‘[email protected]’, complete with FSB crest and signed by Sergey Maximov, head of one of the sections of the CIS.

    Comment by Anders — January 18, 2014 @ 6:17 pm

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