Alleged hacker detained at the request of American authorities.
Russian man, Pyotr Levashov, was arrested in Barcelona last week on a US computer crimes warrant. He has been detained under a US international arrest warrant and a Spanish court is to start proceedings to decide whether he can be extradited to the US to stand trial on charges of ‘mass hacking’ in a number of days.
Another Russian hacker arrested for hacking, how is this news?
It wasn’t, right up until Mr Levashov’s wife, Maria, told Russian broadcaster RT that the arrest was made in connection with US allegations that her husband was responsible for creating malware that hacked the US presidential election and helped steer Donald Trump to victory.
Oh, my Gosh, really?
Well, that’s what she said.
But other news agencies in Europe have been quick to release reports that the arrest is more likely due to with Levashov’s creation and propagation of ransomware and malware over the last decade or so, than specifically helping Donald Trump get elected.
Subsequent updates from Reuters have also thrown doubt on that claim. “A U.S. Department of Justice official said it was a criminal matter without an apparent national security connection,” Reuters added in an update to an earlier version of its story.
So, it really is just another Russian hacker arrested for hacking, how is this news?
Well, there is the adage that there can be no smoke without fire.
Levashov is apparently the brains behind the infamous Kelihos botnet. The Kelihos botnet has been implicated with election meddling in the past. It was used during the 2012 Russian election to send mass emails to accounts that were based in Russia. The emails sent were linked to fake news stories claiming that Vladimir Putin’s main rival, had come out as gay. Smoke, but no fire. There is a previous connection is all I’m saying.
Levashov is also well known in the malware community. As well as being one of the moderators on a Spam forum, he is also currently listed seventh in the world’s Top 10 Worst Spammers according to anti-spam group Spamhaus.
According to the cybersecurity site KrebsOnSecurity, Levashov was allegedly responsible for “running multiple criminal operations that paid virus writers and spammers to install ‘fake antivirus software’ under the alias “Severa.”
That said, malware is routinely shared, revised, changed and added to. The original creator of a virus, often has very little or nothing to do with whatever eventual malicious activity it is tasked with.
Former president Obama’s administration had formally accused Russia as being responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
Time will tell if the Russian man currently held in Spain eventually faces charges in relation to the above incident.