The Truth Behind Russian Data Theft
The fact that we rely on technology so much now means that we are also extremely susceptible to cyber-attacks. Many people understand the possible risk from hackers with the most prominent ones in the media being Russian hackers. These days, data breaches and theft by Russian hackers are a global concern, not just from big corporations but even individual people. So, what actually happens to all this stolen data? Generally, it’s sold on. According to cyber-security experts, massive amounts of stolen data are bought and sold every day.
Back in January 2018, one of the earlier deals involving stolen data took place involving Roman Ryabov and Andrei Bogodyuk. As Ryabov left his office in the southern Russian city of Tula for a cigarette. Beeline, the company he worked for, is one of the largest mobile phone operators in Russia. Bogodyuk, who he had never met, approached him and made a business proposal. He wanted Ryabov to access and sell him the phone records of someone he knew. Within hours, Ryabov emailed Bogodyuk a long list of telephone calls and dates, for which he was paid 1,000 roubles, which is around £12 or $16). It didn’t end there either. Later on, Ryabov supplied Bogodyuk with data from two more mobile phone numbers. However, by this time, Beeline had caught on to what was happening and immediately reported them to the police. They were sentenced and given over 300 hours of community service each. A year later though, this method of data theft is already outdated.
It’s a lot easier than bribing someone on the street nowadays. Pretty much anyone is able to search illegal forums online and purchase the services of a hacker. This means there an almost limitless supply of personal data as the fingertips of anyone who wants it. To make matters even worse, this is a growing market and now the illegal trade in Russia offers almost anything you could possibly want to acquire. This includes things such as mobile phone records, addresses, passport details, and even bank security codes. It’s not even that expensive either, the fee is actually extremely modest making it that much more accessible for an average person.
Lack of Enforcement
Another reason why the illegal trade in stolen data is thriving so much is because the Russian authorities are known to not prosecute much or even take any culprits to court. That said, cases of people stealing and selling confidential data go to court, it gives a small insight into how and why the industry keeps growing.
An example of such a case dates back to 2016, in the Moscow suburb of Vidnoye. This case also gained significant traction due to the data which was being sold. The deputy head of field inspections at the local branch of the Federal Tax Service was convicted after he sold large amounts of income and asset information of several Russian citizens for 7,000 roubles. While he did receive a fine and a sentence, both ended up being dismissed under an amnesty. This highlights a major floor in the prosecution system – those guilty of selling private data are getting away with it.
Russia clearly has an issue with data theft and then selling it on but the authorities don’t seem to care all that much. Their security is extremely lax and those who do get caught generally get light sentences or not prosecuted at all. Therefore there’s little deterrent to hackers but there’s significant incentive as it can be quite a lucrative business. It’s clear that it’s extremely easy to gain access to almost any data, be it passports, bank details, or phone records. No one is safe.