Hackers find refuge in Soviet Internet relic

Mar 13, 2013

Following the release of stolen information of several top American officials and celebrities 11 March, a little-known Soviet corner of the Internet is coming in from the cold.

Hackers posted the stolen details – including Social Security numbers and credit reports – of 17 people, including Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to a website using “.su,” the domain suffix for the former Soviet Union, according to RIA Novosti. Security experts regard the .su domain, which was set up in the final months of the Soviet Union but never taken down, as something of a hideout for cybercriminals.


As of 13 March, the site says it’s received more than 400,000 visitors. FBI and Los Angeles police investigators have not confirmed that the hackers are based in the former Soviet Union, but a Twitter account linked to the site was posting messages in Russian, including one that said, “Hello world, we are revealed. Our aim is to show you all that this is just one of a few tricks up our sleeves,” the Guardian reports.

There are more than 100,000 websites registered to the .su domain, many of which focus on Soviet nostalgia, RIA Novosti reports. The domain name has had somewhat of a storied afterlife following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the U.S.-based group that oversees several aspects of the Internet, has been trying to kill the domain for years (as it regularly does with countries that disappear or change names). But Russian Internet enthusiasts have been trying to keep it alive.

In recent years, security experts noticed that as Russia started to crack down on websites misusing .ru domains, more cyber criminals were switching to sites with .su to avoid take down, according to abuse.ch, a security blog.

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Transitions Online

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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