Tons of Hackers Are Hanging Out in Old Soviet Cyberspace

Illustration for article titled Tons of Hackers Are Hanging Out in Old Soviet Cyberspace

The Internet is a huge place. Some parts of it are awesome, but others are...less so. And falling squarely in that latter category is the ancient .su domain, once the cyberhome of the Soviet Union. It's not exactly well maintained, or well policed, which is why more and more online criminals are using it as a hideout.

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Assigned to the soon-to-be non-existent Soviet Union 23 years ago, the .su TLD has been an orphan for longer than it had a country to call home. But unlike the TLDs for Yugoslavia or East Germany, it didn't disappear with its nation-state namesake thanks to stubborn resistance by its owners of the time.

Until recently, the .su domain has been the home of weird, but legitimate sites. But when the administrators for Russia's .ru got a little more strict about what they would and wouldn't allow, scammers and hackers alike began to migrate to the out-dated .su, which saw its population of sites double in 2011, and again in 2012.

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From the Associated Press:

The most notorious site was Exposed.su, which purportedly published credit records belonging to President Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, Republican presidential challengers Mitt Romney and Donald Trump, and celebrities including Britney Spears, Jay Z, Beyonce and Tiger Woods. The site is now defunct.

Other Soviet sites are used to control botnets—the name given to the networks of hijacked computers used by criminals to empty bank accounts, crank out spam, or launch attacks against rival websites.

The domain is currently controlled by the Moscow-based nonprofit Foundation for Internet Development, who've been regulating it since 2007. And with the recent boom of sketchy sites, the plan is to tighten things down a bit, starting with a new policy rolling out this summer.

.su is home to some 120,000 sites—a number of which are actually legitimate—so shutting it down entirely would be super difficult. Hopefully the registration lock-down can make it less of a weirdly anachronistic cyberspace haven for evil. But hey, we could probably get at least one more "James Bond vs. the Soviets" movie out of this, right? [PhysOrg]

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Image by Shutterstock / Andersphoto

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DISCUSSION

No, shutting it down would NOT be super difficult. If you have a gangrenous leg, but there are a few spots of healthy tissue, you still chop the fucker off. The legitimate sites SHOULD be able to move their TLD without issue, if they really are legit.
I'm not generally a conspiracy theorist, however I have to believe that there is more than likely some political connection, legitimate or not, that is keeping the domain active for nefarious purposes dreamed up by former NKVD personnel. It ain't some 13-year old in a St. Petersberg flat harvesting credit card numbers: It's the Russian Mafia, and the money is going somewhere. Before you start thinking I'm a nut, look at the fact that something like 30-50% of all the money going to the Sochi Olympic games has been used to pay off local officials and construction firms. Russia is going to get a gold medal in corruption for this one. And the .su domain is a conduit.
Kill it now. And take .ru with it.