Russian Hackers

On 29 June (see archive) we previously looked at the way in which criminal elements involved in hacking for personal gain were swept up into the operations of Russian intelligence with offers they could not refuse and ended up contaminating the service in the process of practising their nefarious arts for the state.

Now with the forthcoming extradition of one Russian accused of hacking on a global scale, running an outfit called Kelihos, more evidence has emerged, albeit circumstantial, to underscore the interconnexion between Russian hacking and the intelligence services. The man the Americans had the Spanish police arrest on 7 April for the purpose of extradition for subsequent prosecution  is Pyotr Levashov.

In a desperate attempt to block extradition, finally on 20 September the Russian authorities sought to extradite Levashov to Russia instead on the grounds that he is privy to Russian state secrets. From his lawyers and the Russian consulate in Spain we learn that Levashov had studied in the military faculty of the poly-technical university of St Petersburg and therefore knows about Russian missiles.

To say the least this is a revealing connexion. The Americans do not really need to know more about the technical specification of Russian missiles. When in the Soviet period the specialists within government listed their own missiles, they annotated the list with observations about whether the Americans had details of their specific capabilities. They invariably did. The archives at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California contain such documents, the Kataev papers, which I used in my book Russia’s Cold War. So it is unlikely that Levashov’s extradition is for the purpose of finding out more about missiles. The Spanish judges evidently also found this a rather flimsy excuse for returning him to Russia. So he will have to go on trial in the United States, where we should learn a good deal more.