back to article Russian spy ring bust uncovers tech toolkit

The FBI's case against an alleged deep cover Russian spy ring relies heavily on surveillance of their use of ad hoc Wi-Fi networks, bespoke software, encryption and the web. After a counter-espionage operation lasting several years, 10 people were accused on Monday of being covert agents of the SVR, Russia's foreign …

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  1. Jamie Kitson

    11th

    According to the BBC the 11th person has been arrested in Cyprus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Hmmmm

      "accused of posing as bogus married couples"

      So, are they suggesting that they were pretending to be married? or pretending to be a couple who were married? or pretending to be a couple who were pretending to be married?

      confused!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Bail?

    Brilliant. I'm sure he'll show up for his extradition hearing like a good accused Spy. Cyprus = Idiots.

    1. Cameron Colley

      More to the point: What did he do wrong?

      Is it illegal to board planes in Cyprus now?

      Why is everyone in the world America's bitch? Unless he was spying against Cyprus or harming their citizens they should have let him go on his way.

      1. Gulfie
        FAIL

        It's called Interpol

        In the same way that we can ask for the arrest of somebody who has committed a serious crime here and then left the country, so can the Americans.

        Achieving extradition is another matter entirely because evidence will have to be presented to show sufficient proof that this person would be charged with a crime. Unless of course you are subject to our wonderful, balanced 'agreement' with the Yanks, or the extradition is between EEC member states. In either case it would appear that extradition is all too easy and without sufficient safeguards in place.

        It does sound completely daft giving this guy bail though. There can be few people more capable of getting out of the country after having their passport confiscated than a spy. And if there is any truth to the allegations (which seem fairly substantive) then you can also imagine that the Russians will be keen to ensure that he is nowhere to be found. Or they might be happy for him to be found once they've arranged for him to stop breathing.

        1. thribb

          reply

          except the Americans wouldn't if you were Irish and committed an offence in the UK before 11 September 2001 of course.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Serious crime? What serious crime?

          "In the same way that we can ask for the arrest of somebody who has committed a serious crime here and then left the country, so can the Americans". What serious crime is this? None of them have been charged with espionage, only being "unregistered representatives of a foreign government", which is not even an offence in most countries; if the Americans choose to make it so that is their privilege but they shouldn't expect anyone else to humour them. ("Espionage" is generally not an extradictable offence either, but we'll let that pass.)

          It's simply a trumped up load of propaganda. If I followed US politics I would probably be able to identify the domestic news story that this has been released to distract public attention from. Maybe the ten-thousandth death in Afghanistan or something.

        3. Gilbert Wham

          Tradecraft?

          I'd be inclined to use the 'going to the other bit of Cyprus' gambit, myself. Assuming he was in the bit full of squaddies and leathery ex-pats, that is.

      2. JohnG Silver badge

        International fugitives

        Maybe the Americans asked friendly nations to detain him on the basis that he is wanted in the USA. Cyprus would probably expect similar cooperation in the event that they wished to catch someone who had broken their laws and then left the island. Ronnie Biggs went to Brazil precisely because they had no extradition agreement with the UK.

      3. El
        Flame

        Really?

        Ever heard of this thing called Interpol? The Yanks and Brits have reciprocal agreements with lots of other countries -- they pick up our criminals, we pick up theirs. What do you think the Americans would do if somebody spied on Cyprus, then tried to escape by flying through the US?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @What do you think the Americans would do

          If he/she were particularly skilled in any field the US deemed useful, employ him/her and lie to the rest of us. In fact, it's a foregone conclusion.

      4. Cameron Colley

        Ah, so we are all America's bitches?

        It's a shame when one country gets to decide its national interests are important to everyone.

        Not that I condone what Ronnie Biggs did -- but at least, unlike a lot of other criminals, we didn't have to pay to keep him here. Is it cheaper to jail someone for life than to let them get away with it?

        1. John Savard Silver badge

          Getting Away With It

          Of course it's cheaper to jail someone for life. Letting people get away with robberies means more robberies. If they knew they would never get away with it, they wouldn't try.

          1. Mr Larrington
            FAIL

            Nyet

            Prison doesn't work. We *know* this to be true because a Tory Minijustice said so yesterday. Quite how Ken Clarke reconciles this with Mikell Howerd's 1993 declaration that "Prison works" is a mystery left for more astute political commentators.

            1. Gilbert Wham

              Nyet?

              Simple. They're all lying scum, who we should round up and burn in a giant wicker man, whilst we dance around singing & fornicating. In the morning, we can sort it all out for ourselves and get on with our daily lives. Give it a couple of weeks, we won't even remember them.

      5. Rick Giles
        Joke

        When the rest of the world

        flocks to your country because it is so great, then you get to have the say so.

    2. JohnG Silver badge

      Nowhere to run

      Having had to cough bail from his espionage pay, he's now probably being followed around by a gaggle of spooks and has then had to blow another chunk of his espionage pay on a room at some Cypriot hotel.

    3. TeeCee Gold badge

      RE: Bail?

      It seems that today he "failed to attend a scheduled meeting with police".

      You are Mystic Meg and ICMFP!

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "The spy in the Facebook page"

    Not very covert is it?

    Suppose this will have to go on my list of things to look out for when you date Redheads.

    1. Pablo
      Paris Hilton

      What do you mean "not very covert"?

      Are you saying she's readily identifiable as a spy from that picture?

      1. Mr Grumblefish

        I Don't Know

        The one thing I learned from watching 'The Matrix' was that it's always the good-looker in the red dress.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      odnoklassniki.ru

      She is also on a Russian version of friendsreunited called "odnoklassniki" where she lists schools in Volgograd and has even more photos. No doubt the FBI are sifting through her friends on that site....

      1. Midas
        Stop

        Where?

        Since I don't read Russian, it's links or GTFO...

  4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Its a good thing ...

    That these spys forgot one of the first rules of being a cyberpunk...

    If I have to tell you, then you need to re-read all of Gibson's material.

    :-)

  5. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Coat

    Sir

    Blimey, I reckon if they'd just used pgp and webmail from work they would have probably gotten away with it ;)

    Hmm, what's this in my coat pocket?

    1. Colin_L
      Thumb Up

      nice work...

      ...now can we please do something about the terabytes of data the chinese are stealing.. oh, like, perpetually?

  6. The Vociferous Time Waster
    Happy

    OK, two points

    1) Can that agent that is pictured please be my honeytrap?

    2) This is a little more James Bond than the usual spy guff. Where do I sign up and see point 1.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick
      Headmaster

      Sorry jake

      I should have mentioned @jake below that the spook motto "Never judge a book by its cover" has been co-opted by the Tabloids - "Never judge a News Organization by tits, covered."

      Nice work El Reg setting everyone straight, if you will pardon the expression, well half of us, oh never mind.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Russian honeytraps

      1) Can that agent that is pictured please be my honeytrap?

      No - she was already assigned to another guy but will now likely spend some years in the company of other women. There are others in Russia though but it may be best to avoid those wanting a career in espionage.

      2) This is a little more James Bond than the usual spy guff. Where do I sign up and see point 1.

      You did notice they all got caught, didn't you?

  7. Dan 10

    Good article

    Interesting how their tradecraft techniques are evolving with technology. If only the rest of the government agencies were as tech-competent!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    At least

    ..the Russkies have better girls than the Merkins, at least from my experience and looking at this picture.

    Definitely they should improve their geeky skillz.

  9. Peter Simpson 1
    Coat

    Interesting

    1. Standard WiFi? No top secret technolongy in a USB stick from Qski's lab?

    2. Done in by needing to return a defective laptop?

    3. Not quite the sleepers of yesteryear, were they?

    Mine's the one with the dagger in the pocket (natch)

    1. TimeMaster T
      Coat

      re: #1

      in this case the obvious is less obvious.

      If some super encrypted non standard ad-hoc Wi-Fi network popped up every time two people get within 200 ft of each other it would stand out like a nuke at midnight.

      However, using a USB Wi-Fi dongle for this, and only this, application would have been a better plan, or at least changing the MAC to a random/different value for the "secret" communications and then resetting it when done to avoid this kind of tracking. Using a one time MAC address predetermined according to a cipher key from another communications channel, like a FaceBook status message or other chat forum with a set of keywords and then the pass phrase would be even better.

      Remember, the really smart ones never get caught.

      Mine's the one with the USB dongle in the pocket. Hurry please, I need to get a cup of coffee in 20 minutes.

      1. bean520
        FAIL

        Mac addresses cant be changed

        The only way you can keep changing your mac adress is to change your dongle to a new one every time you communicate. MAC addresses are hard-wired

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          I see your Fail, and raise you an 'ORLY?'

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MAC_spoofing

        2. paulc
          FAIL

          BZZZT!!!! WRONG!!!!

          http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/security/?p=395

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MAC_spoofing

        3. phoenix
          Happy

          Can too

          Though you would need to be clever as the first 3 octets in the address uniquely ID the manufacturer of the NIC (as they are issued in blocks like IPs). So to be plausible you would only want to change to trailing octets otherwise mister counterspy who can see who makes your laptop will know something fishy is up.

          1. David McMahon

            Yeah but..

            you can change the wireless card in the Lappy, or just get a £20 adaptor for each meet

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  11. jake Silver badge

    "from her Facebook page"

    Because as any fule noes, all spies use Facebook ... and twitter.

    "Anna Chapman is: selling national secrets now. And check out my new hooker bag!"

  12. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick
      Paris Hilton

      @jake

      Your icon is missing.

      Over at Men In Black, Inc. Facebook is the new National Inquirer

      Paris, because she looks good in "Red" too, but even better in nothing.

      El Reg, cash Rupert's check ASAP, although I do not think you would have been too out of line to request cash in advance ...

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Gannon (J.) Dick

        "Your icon is missing."

        I don't do icons, with a rare nod to offering to buy a round of beer.

        Icons are for AOLers.

  13. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    So much work for nothing...

    So much work for nothing: the ruskies could have just offered chocolate bars to the administration staff who work for the target company or departments and they'd have gladly given them their passwords. Simples.

    They were a bit lack in their procedures though. If the laptop was configured as a standard vanilla windows system, it would have been open to the world and that's an easy defence of "I had no idea what windows was doing". The contact taking the info should have used a different MAC address rather than a fixed one or just passively recorded to the communications rather than establishing a connection. Amateurs.

    So now we know what google was doing with their street-view wi-fi spy scanning global network!

  14. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    "99 Fake Street"

    erm am i being dumb? Is this something that the reg has used as an example or is this really the address she used?!

    1. JohnG Silver badge

      Really

      Yes- "99 Fake Street" was the address she used, along with the name "Irene Kutsov".

    2. Pablo

      She really used that

      But it's not so strange. It was only for buying a phone, I put down stuff like that all the time. Still it's probably not a great idea if you're trying to keep a low profile.

      Though it also occurs to me that the clerk could have put that in after she declined to provide an address.

      1. Jimbo 6

        If I'd been the clerk -

        - she could've told me her name was Getja Nickersov and I wouldn't have doubted it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        fake street

        Surely this means that the clerk who sold her the phone is also on the hook.....right?

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