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21 May, 2009 07:41

Outlaw Legends: Secrets of Russian Hackers

With cybercrime on the rise worldwide, hackers from Russia and China are called the most dangerous. Though several countries say Russian virtual terrorists threaten their security, they seem impossible to catch.

That mysterious Russian hacker – is he as scary as they say?

RT caught up with a professional hacker who, for obvious reasons, chose to remain anonymous.

“Everything is dependent on computers now,” he said.

“Bank cards, phones – everything functions through a computer, through an operating system. And all of it can be broken into and destroyed.”

The hackers often do it for the cash. But more often than not, the thrill and adrenaline is what drives their curious mind.

In the past few years, the US has often fallen victim to Russian hackers. They’ve broken into the systems of major companies and even the Pentagon. As a leader in computer technology, America is a juicy target for hackers.

“I don't know if Americans are afraid of us, but we’re definitely not afraid of them,” the interviewed hacker told RT.

“Half of our country is made up of hackers, why would we be afraid of the Americans? When we are the ones stealing their products and their software.”

Virtual ‘freedom fighter’

The Russian police’s cybercrime division named 'Department K' has warned many times that Russian hackers are the strongest in the world. And it’s extremely hard to catch a hacker red-handed.

“I was arrested, taken to three prisons in three weeks,” said Dmitry Sklyarov, programmer from Moscow.

“Then I was let out on bail and couldn’t return to Russia for six months because of the American justice system."

Dmitry Sklyarov’s arrest several years ago exploded into a frenzy of outrage among the public, both in the US and abroad.

At a computer conference in America several years ago, Dmitry showed how easy it is to break through the PDF format and was arrested by the FBI. He became a symbol of the fight for programmers’ freedom, and was soon released from an American prison.

Dmitry is now an IT professor at a prestigious Russian computer science university. The pro says he has never carried out any criminal activity using his knowledge.

“Thankfully, no one ever came to me and said ‘help us commit this crime or else,” said Sklyarov.

But Dmitry says, if he had, it would have been impossible to catch him.

Human lives in hackers’ hands

Nikita Sinitsyn, Editor-in-Chief of “Hacker” magazine – a how-to Russian publication – says it’s not true all hackers are criminals. He explained to RT the scale of what a hacker can do.

“The scariest thing about what a hacker can do is not money loss, but human lives,” he said.

“Hypothetically, if a hacker broke into a system of satellite control, made satellites crash into each other and fall to Earth, let’s say, in Los Angeles, that's scary. Systems containg state secrets being broken into by hackers – maybe that’s not such a bad thing. This doesn’t influence individual human lives. That’s something that states and corporations should worry about”.

One of the problems with catching a hacker is that there is no unified international law for Internet crime. Bringing charges against someone based in another country is extremely hard to do. So until there is a strong legal mechanism against them, hackers have lots of time and opportunities to keep up the cyber attacks.