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Cybersecurity: the dilemma of Russian hackers


While Russia and Ukraine were both among the leading cyber expert countries, both in attack and in security, the war has significantly changed their positions. Digital is an important source of income for Ukraine, behind agriculture. Thanks to its numerous and well-trained engineers, the country has a pool of talent that the war has not scared away.

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On the other side of the border, on the other hand, in the first months of the conflict, many Russian computer scientists and cyber experts left their country. Their number, estimated at several tens of thousands in 2022, increased further with the announcement of the military mobilization launched in the fall, a few months after the start of the war. They left for Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and various Central Asian countries. Despite the absence of an official figure, there are now more than 100,000 specialists missing from Russian companies and administrations. This deficit, which has significantly weakened Russia, worries the Kremlin enough for a return plan to have been announced, accompanied by an exemption from mobilization for exiles who would return to the country, without much success for the moment it seems. -he.

Some hacker groups, on the other hand, took sides from the start of the conflict and pledged allegiance to the Kremlin on February 25, the day the invasion was launched, such as the cybercriminal organization Conti, which declared that it would retaliate to any cyberattack carried out against Russia. The latter carried out their threat on several occasions. They are, for example, behind the attack on Costa Rica in April 2022, which led the country’s president, Rodrigo Chaves, to declare a state of emergency because of the ransomware that crippled the country’s financial system and seriously disrupted health services as well as the payment of salaries in the public sector.

The Wolf in the Sheepfold

With more than three million cybersecurity experts lacking around the world, could exiled Russian hackers be a back-up force? No, answer most players in the sector, because cybersecurity is a sensitive sector. They don’t want to run the risk of bringing the wolf into the fold. However, others are less categorical. Israeli companies are said to have already recruited Russians in exile.

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Another example, the cyber protection company Acronis – whose headquarters are shared between Switzerland and Singapore –, confident in its methods, does not rule out recruiting on the condition of respecting a rigorous selection process. Founded in 2003 by Serg Bell and Ilya Zubarev, both of Russian origin, the company is experienced in working remotely, with employees of various nationalities present all over the world. Oleg Melnikov, its technical director, also of Russian origin, is based in the United States; Katya Ivanova, Commercial Director of Ukrainian origin, works from Bulgaria. As for the recruitment manager, Ashley Taylor, a former consultant from the Boston Consulting Group, she remains faithful to her Boston roots. “We recruit people from anywhere, as long as they don’t live in a country under sanctions, and recruitment only takes place after numerous interviews and checksexplains Patrick Pulvermueller, CEO of the company. In addition, any employee who accesses the code of our software must be authorized by several people in the company. This prevents any malicious access to the code. »