Yevgeny Nikulin a.k.a Peace, a 29-year-old Russian citizen was accused of hacking US social media platforms including LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Formspring. Nikulin was arrested in a Prague hotel’s restaurant on October 5 in a joint action between the FBI and Czech law enforcement authorities. Now, being held in detention in the Czech Republic, both Russia and the US wants the extradition of the hacker.
Both countries requested extradition since there is a western concern over Russia’s alleged use of cyberattacks against foreign targets. Russia may have a stronger claim since the nationality of the suspect and the country’s warm relation with the Czech Republic. However, the EU member is also part of the Nato, which means the country also has specific obligations to the US. Although, the current Czech president is Milos Zeman who is well known for his pro-Russian views.
According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ), a federal grand jury in Oakland, California indicted the Russian hacker “for obtaining information from computers, causing damage to computers, trafficking in access devices, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy”.
“The indictment . . . alleges that Nikulin accessed computers belonging to LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Formspring, each of which has its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area,” the indictment continues.
LinkedIn says the arrest of Nikulin is connected to the 2012 major hack against the social media platform, which resulted in the compromise of 100 million user accounts. Earlier this year, the password and email details of the victims were put up for sale on dark web markets multiple times.
Moscow reacted angrily to the detention of the Russian hacker. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it “yet more proof that US law enforcement is hunting Russian citizens around the world”.
In August, Roman Seleznyov, a 30-year-old son of a Russian parliamentary deputy was convicted in Seattle court for a hacking scheme resulting in the loss of about $160 million. He stole millions of credit card numbers, which he resold on dark web markets. The cybercriminal was arrested by US agents as he boarded a plane to leave the Maldives in the Indian Ocean returning from his holiday. US law enforcement authorities took him to Guam, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean, before sending the suspect to Seattle. Russia compared this US operation to a “kidnapping”.
Czech officials confirmed on Wednesday that Prague had received extradition requests from both Moscow and Washington for Nikulin.
Two days after the Russian hacker was arrested on an Interpol warrant, the USA announced they were “confident that the Russian government directed” the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the release of thousands of emails “to interfere with the US election process”.
“Such activity is not new to Moscow – the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe . . . that only Russia’s seniormost officials could have authorized these activities,” US security and intelligence officials said in a joint statement.
Nikulin’s case is a hard decision for president Zeman since he wants to foul up the relations neither with Russia nor with the US.