Hunting Russian hackers: Meet the Canadian on the frontlines of a cyberwar – National


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Nicholas Palmer’s day job is searching Russian hackers.

Initially from Nova Scotia, Palmer is now the director of worldwide enterprise at GroupIB, a personal cyber-security agency based mostly in Moscow. Palmer has spent his profession stopping and responding to cyber-attacks on web customers and companies world wide, however he says cyber-criminals from Russia symbolize his biggest problem.

“We’ve seen them very simply enter banks’ networks and conduct very highly-skilled assaults towards theoretically well-protected networks,” Palmer stated, pointing to a faux Royal Financial institution of Canada web site focusing on Canadian clients.

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“Sadly, we detect 1000’s of those (phishing web sites) which are hosted in Russia. Russian-speaking cyber-criminals are a really gifted group of individuals.”

Russians’ tech-savvy cyber-skills are rooted in historical past. The nation boasts a powerful track-record of technological innovation and has prioritized schooling within the fields of math and engineering for many years. However after the Soviet financial system collapsed, unemployment soared and jobs for employees with technical abilities had been in brief provide.


A screenshot of a faux RBC “phishing website,” much like these allegedly utilized by Russian hackers.

Nicholas Palmer

“So, sadly, younger people which have excessive programming abilities with no job alternatives could select the trail of fast success for ,” Palmer stated.

Alexandr Varskoy is a former Russian hacker, who grew up throughout Russia’s gruelling financial transition within the 1990s. “Computer systems supplied a sort of freedom in these arduous instances,” he stated, explaining that he used to hack firms’ knowledge for enjoyable. “If you’re 15, it’s cool to hack into Microsoft or Vodafone and say ‘hello’ utilizing your codename. At first, it was simply to show your self to your folks within the hacking scene. However then the Web grew to become a market. And later the political video games began and the cyber-world entered a harmful time.”

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A flurry of latest high-profile cyber-attacks has been blamed on Russians, together with the hacking of anti-doping businesses based mostly in Canada and the assault on the U.S. Democratic Nationwide Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s presidential marketing campaign. The U.S. Division of Justice has accused Russia’s intelligence company, the G.R.U., in each assaults.

“It’s unclear how a lot of it was really perpetrated by the Russian authorities and on whose orders,” stated Anton Fedyashin, a Russian historical past skilled at American College in Washington, D.C. “However then once more, to be stunned at international governments amassing info on their opponents or their companions, even via cyber-penetration, is absolutely to be type of blind to how the modern world works.”

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Varskoy says the risk posed by Russian hackers is overblown and that Russia’s “golden age” in our on-line world is over.

Alexandr Varskoy is a former Russian hacker, who grew up during Russia’s gruelling economic transition in the 1990s.

Alexandr Varskoy is a former Russian hacker, who grew up throughout Russia’s gruelling financial transition within the 1990s.

Jeff Semple

“American hackers, Russian hackers, German hackers are on the identical stage,” he stated. “Germany is the highest nation on the planet by way of servers and . You need to rely the , not the individuals.

“Cyber-warfare is about , not ‘Snowdens’ or ‘Assanges.’”

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And in contrast to the troublesome post-Soviet years, tech-savvy Russians now have loads of profession paths to select from. Russia’s unemployment charge is at its lowest stage in years and the nation now has a scarcity of IT specialists. Palmer’s cyber-security firm works with native faculties and universities to recruit and educate Russian youth, “to indicate them that there’s numerous actually cool alternatives inside the cyber-security house to make use of your abilities for good,” he stated.

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