Getting ready for the election in three weeks? You’re not alone. The US government claims that hackers organized by Russia have targeted our electoral system as a deluge of purloined information from political organizations gets dumped into our media. This morning, Reuters reports that American law enforcement may have begun to strike back, thanks to our Czech allies:
Czech police have detained a Russian man wanted in connection with hacking attacks on targets in the United States, the police said, without giving further details.
The arrest was carried out in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Czech police said on their website on Tuesday evening. Interpol had issued a so-called Red Notice for the man, seeking his arrest, they added.
An Interpol “Red Notice” will get issued for persons wanted by other nations for prosecution, usually involving extradition. It’s a little more serious than a blue or green notice, where criminal activity is suspected but not yet ready for prosecution, and orange and purple notices which relate more to investigation of ongoing threats. It sounds as though the FBI and the Department of Justice believes it has a case ready to put before a court, and not just a suspicion. Interpol has around two dozen red notices for Russians wanted by the US, including a few relating to computer crimes. However, it’s not possible to determine at this time whether the red notice in this case was made public prior to the arrest; Interpol notes that publication of red notices is not automatic.
The Reuters report includes a curious tidbit: it says that the suspect “collapsed” and had to be hospitalized after his arrest in a Prague hotel. That seems a little out of character for a master hacker, but who knows? Given the potential cloak-and-dagger aspect of this crime, one has to wonder whether the suspect tried to commit suicide … or maybe just couldn’t handle the pressure. Nothing in the report indicates that the collapse was life-threatening, and it appears that the extradition process will take place on a regular timeframe from the sparse reporting so far.
We’ll update if events warrant, but it will be veeerrrry interesting to follow this case and see whether this relates to the hacks in the current election cycle — or just an unrelated case that also involved Russian hackers.
Update: This later report from NBC says the arrest took place two weeks ago, and has just been announced today. That’s rather interesting in itself:
Another police spokesman, David Schoen, told The Associated Press the arrest took place on Oct. 5 and that police delayed releasing information about it for “tactical” reasons.
Police video from the arrest, obtained by the AP, identified the man only as Yevgeniy N.
As expected, that name doesn’t match the public list of red-notice cases, but it also may be because Interpol might have updated its database after the arrest. Why wait two weeks to announce the arrest? Clearly they didn’t want to tip off Yevgeniy’s associates. Why announce it now? Maybe they’ve caught up with a few of them already.
A Czech judge ruled that Yevgeniy will remain in custody without bail until an extradition hearing. We may find out more at that point, but so far it hasn’t been scheduled.