[ISN] FBI hacked Russian hackers

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Apr 25 2001 - 01:01:19 PDT

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    By: Thomas C Greene in Washington
    Posted: 25/04/2001 at 06:45 GMT
    Russian computer enthusiasts Alexey Ivanov and Vasiliy Gorshkov are in
    the United States just now answering charges that they broke into
    numerous remote servers and download proprietary information, customer
    databases and credit card details, and then attempted to extort money
    for 'security services' which, they assured their victims, would
    eliminate the holes exploited during the attacks.
    Among the major scores they're credited with was the downloading of
    credit card details from 15,700 unfortunate Western Union customers.
    Not so much leet as incredibly brazen, the pair typically exploited
    several well-known vulnerabilities in Win-NT for which patches were
    issued ages ago and persistently ignored by sysadmins with far better
    things to do than read a lot of dry security bulletins.
    Interestingly, the FBI engaged in a little social engineering attack
    of its own, and actually lured the duo to the USA with a come-on from
    a phony security outfit eager to avail itself of their mad skillz.
    Once the agents, who were posing as representatives of the fictional
    'Invita' security firm, got the men on US soil, they put on a command
    performance, and persuaded the unlucky pair to give them a
    demonstration of their amazing prowess.
    Naturally, the box the Feds supplied was rigged with every
    surveillance gizmo known to man. But our pair of Russian braniacs
    somehow failed to insist on using their own equipment, and played
    right into Unca Sam's hands.
    We can only surmise that the two accessed their own boxes back in
    Russia to route their demo attack, or to download toolz, or to consult
    their favorite h4x0r how-to. In any event, the FBI was able to use
    data recorded by the rigged demo box to access the pair's own boxes in
    Russia, from which they got all the evidence needed to hang them.
    Jurisdictional weirdness
    It was, without question, one sweet sting; but what happened next
    strikes us as totally sketch. The FBI downloaded data from the
    suspects' comps, and then went to a judge for a search warrant, which
    was granted.
    The Russian authorities had conspicuously declined to cooperate, the
    Feds note. Fair enough, but we don't know by what right the FBI thinks
    it can gain unauthorized access to a computer in a foreign country and
    use information so gained as evidence in court.
    A brilliant sting seems tainted by a kind of haughtiness regarding
    national sovereignty. Had the unlucky pair voluntarily revealed this
    data on the strength of the FBI's acting job, we'd have our hats off
    to their ingenuity and theatrical skill. Had a Russian judge
    sanctioned the use of this data by a foreign government, we'd be
    But when the US government lowers itself to the level of a common
    malicious hacker, and gets away with it in court regardless of the
    internal laws of the country where they performed this deed, we're
    prevented from applauding as we otherwise would.
    A splendid sting, which if it had been handled right could have been
    as sweet as honey, was, we reckon, severely degraded by Yankee
    pragmatism and legalistic arrogance.
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