Feeds

Russians accuse FBI agent of hacking

Sting stung

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

An FBI agent was charged yesterday with computer hacking by the Russian counterintelligence service.

The unprecedented charges by the FSB, Russia's Federal Security Service, follow the involvement of FBI Agent Michael Schuler in luring two Russian hackers Vasily Gorshkov, 26, and Alexey Ivanov, 20, to the US in November 2000.

Schuler is accused of obtaining unauthorised access to the pair's computers in Russia as part of the FBI's operation, according to reports.

Sources within the FSB describe the complaint against Schuler to the US Department of Justice as a means of asserting Russian sovereignty.

"If the Russian hackers are sentenced on the basis of information obtained by the Americans through hacking, that will imply the future ability of U.S. secret services to use illegal methods in the collection of information in Russia and other countries," a source told Interfax, a Russian news agency.

Schuler was praised by US authorities for an elaborate ruse that resulted in the arrests of Gorshkov and Ivanov in November 2000. The operation arose out of a nationwide FBI investigation into Russian computer intrusions against e-commerce sites, and online banks which identified Gorshkov and Ivanov as prime suspects.

It was suspected the pair cracked into victims' computers to steal credit card information and other personal financial information, prior to attempting to extort money from the victims with threats to expose the sensitive data to the public or damage the victims' computers. Gorshkov and Ivanov were also suspected of defrauding PayPal through a scheme in which stolen credit cards were used to generate cash and to pay for computer parts.

The FBI lured the two to the US by posing as representatives of the fictional 'Invita' security firm, and offering the dynamic duo good jobs if they could prove their skills.

Of course the Feds set up a box rigged with a key logger and then set the pair to work demonstrating their amazing prowess. When they accessed their machines back home, the Feds recorded the login info, and later returned to root the boxes.

Having placed the pair in handcuffs, the FBI went obtained a wealth of evidence from the hacked boxes.

Last October, Gorshkov was convicted of 20 counts of conspiracy, various computer crimes, and fraud committed against Speakeasy Network of Seattle, Washington; Nara Bank of Los Angeles, California; Central National Bank of Waco, Texas; and PayPal. He faced a maximum of 100 years imprisonment and was due to be sentenced in January, but records do not show if any punishment has yet been imposed.

Ivanov is in custody awaiting trial.

In pre-trial motions, Gorshkov's lawyer argued that the Feds violated Russian law when they searched the contents of his remote machine.

US District Judge John Coughenour ruled that Russian law doesn't apply to American agents, and left it at that.

That ruling and the failure of US agents to co-operate with Russia, has not returned to haunt the Americans. The issue will probably be resolved at a diplomatic level but, if not, the idea of an FBI agent faces hacking charges has intriguing possibilities.

It would never happen in a Tom Clancey novel... ®

Related stories

US Feds can hack overseas boxes -- judge
FBI hacked Russian hackers
Russian Mafia uses NT flaws to raid Internet banks

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.