The Russian government wants to decriminalize hacking – as long as attacks are carried out in the interests of the country, which is currently waging war in Ukraine. Obviously, the so-called patriotic hackers were already free of all prosecution anyway.
The Kremlin is exploring the idea of absolving Russian hackers from criminal liability. But the new order would only affect the attackers who carry out hits, useful to Moscow, Alexander Khinshstein, the head of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, said.
He added that the exemp[tion would be granted to individuals located both in Russia and abroad. This is because many Russian IT professionals left the country when it announced mobilization last year.
"I am firmly convinced that it is necessary to use any resources to effectively fight the enemy. If such centers attack us today, then Russia should have the opportunity for an adequate response," Khinshstein said, according to TASS.
The creation, use, and distribution of malicious computer software are currently punishable in Russia by up to seven years in prison.
There are no exemptions to this law. This means that many of the current pro-Kremlin hacktivist groups are actually breaking Russian law and that they could technically face prosecution.
Even though there’s a silent understanding between such groups and the government that needs hackers in its ongoing war on Ukraine, this status quo could change if, for instance, Vladimir Putin’s regime is removed.
However, so far, the exemption would allow pro-Kremlin hacktivists to carry out attacks with a legal carte blanche. The new rule would most likely apply to the likes of Killnet, XakNet, NoName057(16), CyberArmyRussia, FRwL Team, and others.
Killnet is especially notorious – according to the US Department of Health and Human Services Cybersecurity Center, at least 14 US healthcare organizations are actively targeted by this gang.
While Killnet’s threats and their trademark low-level distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have been seen as more of a nuisance than an actual threat, security experts are warning attacks can become more destructive in the future and deploy malware wipers or ransomware.
While Killnet presents themselves as hacktivists, the group gives the Russian government cover to conduct damaging attacks on Western institutions.
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