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End of garage kids

Hacking: if you still had doubts, impunity is definitely long gone


Russian Who Hacked LinkedIn, Dropbox Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison




Obviously this news leaves little to imagination: hacking is now part of the big crimes out there, that could land any offending hacker into jail for a long time.


Not so long ago, examples of hackers in the press were usually some highly talented kid in his bedroom managing to peek into some organisation secret files for his own satisfaction about ‘managing to do it’, who was taken to the police station for questioning, maybe by some special forces if he got lucky, and who made it to the first page of some newspapers and then got hired by a large corporation to work on cyberdefense. Good times, all clean fun (despite already being illegal, I have to add).


Those times are long gone, and hopefully they were useful to get worldwide police forces aware of the risks and get organised to fight what would quickly become the new land of opportunities for the non-law-abiding citizens and organisations.


Despite the fact that the charges are not dissimilar to what our garage kids used to do (well they are a bit different, but share a lot of commonalities)- computer intrusion, aggravated identity theft, causing damage to a protected computer, trafficking in unauthorised access devices, and conspiracy - Yevgeniy Aleksandrovich Nikulin, 32, will serve 88 months of prison time.


The case shows many aspects of ‘traditional’ crime stories:

  • A long period of time between crime and sentence: the crimes were committed in 2012, and sentencing in 2020, partly for investigation time, partly for various stakeholders fighting.

  • A collaboration between several countries, under the banner of Interpol, who arrested Nikulin in Prague.

  • A fight between several countries, as the U.S. and Russia fought nearly 2 years over the request to extradite Nikulin to be judged in the USA (the companies affected by the crimes are American companies)

  • A long sentence being finally pronounced: 88 months (more than 7 years) of prison time.

It can be seen as a symptom of what is becoming the new playground for crime and wars. With physical presence usually being irrelevant, it requires a strong collaboration between countries.


Interpol is on the forefront is the matter. As they express on www.interpol.int/Crimes/Cybercrime: “Words and phrases that scarcely existed a decade ago are now part of our everyday language, as criminals use new technologies to commit cyberattacks against governments, businesses and individuals. These crimes know no borders, either physical or virtual, cause serious harm and pose very real threats to victims worldwide.” Before to conclude: “Police must therefore keep pace with new technologies, to understand the possibilities they create for criminals and how they can be used as tools for fighting cybercrime.”


Cybercrime is here to stay, and gain even more momentum, no question about that. However, law enforcement everywhere are working up to the challenge, and not only to protect corporations agains attacks, but also individuals.

In France, for example, both individuals and entreprises can reach out and get help on a governmental platform : www.cybermalveillance.gouv.fr . The platform has a dual purposes of helping victims of cybercrime find professional help, and of obtaining a real-time picture of what is happening in France regarding cybercrime, a valuable asset for cyber-police.


Indeed, if we want hackers to be prosecuted and sentenced, hence making sure that cybercrime never profits from an atmosphere of impunity, we must declare to the authorities the attacks we are victims of : a necessary step for all of us to take against cybercrime.


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