Hacker Hell is arguably the most notorious hacker on the Russian-language Internet. Last month, Sergei Maksimov was dragged to court in Bonn, Germany. The prosecution argues that Sergei Maksimov is Hacker Hell, who has been terrorizing the Russian blogosphere for over a decade. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has alleged that Maksimov was receiving directions from the Kremlin.
Cyberwarfare is common in Russia
Over the years, Hacker Hell has broken into the Twitter and email accounts of prominent opposition leaders and bloggers. In Russia, the government controls traditional media. And President Vladimir Putin’s aides run a troll factory in St. Petersburg to compromise, expose, and even hurt Putin’s enemies. So, hacks, data theft, and other forms of cyberwarfare are common in Russia.
The court trials have been extended to July 21, so Sergei Maksimov is yet to be proved guilty. Whether or not Hacker Hell was working for the Kremlin, the case offers a sneak peek into Russia’s heating internal cyberwarfare. Hacker Hell twice hacked the email and Twitter accounts of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He created a lot of enemies in the process of hacking popular bloggers and politicians.
Eventually, two journalists traced Hacker Hell down as Sergei Maksimov, a Russian who moved to Germany in 1997, reports Newsweek. When police came with a search warrant to Maksimov’s house upon being persuaded by Navalny, they found a document called “Gospel According to Hell,” a notebook signed with “Hell”, among other things.
Some hackers are fighting back government-sponsored trolls in Russia
The Kremlin may have an army of its own hackers, but some hackers have started fighting back. For over a year, a hacker group called Anonimnyi Internatsional has been leaking information from email accounts and phones of top Russian government officials. Last year, the group even hacked Twitter account of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. One of the representatives of the group told Newsweek that people providing technology for the government were “fantastically incompetent.”
Anonimnyi Internatsional’s purpose is to “change the reality.” The group’s representative said that Sergei Maksimov was only one of the Russian hackers using the alias Hacker Hell. Many, including prominent Russian journalist Oleg Kashin, claim that Anonimnyi Internatsional is backed by someone within the government, using these leaks for leverage in internal power struggles.