July 2, 2014:
Russian hackers were again found to be responsible for a new form of computer crime. This one involved finding and exploiting a flaw in the “find my computer (or phone)” software in Apple computers and portable devices (iPhones, iPads and so on). The two Russian hackers would find Apple equipment users vulnerable to the hack and lock their computers or smart phones. Then the Russians would tell the victims that if they paid a ransom (up to $100) their equipment would be unlocked. One of the two perpetrators was caught when an ATM vidcam took his picture as some of the payments were withdrawn. The victims usually sent payments via PayPal.
The two Russians responsible were young (17 and 23) and not expert hackers. But they were persistent and got lucky when they perfected this scheme. Only a small percentage of Apple devices were vulnerable but the two certainly hit enough Apple customers to get the attention of Apple and that led to the international search.
Now the problem is getting Russia to prosecute these two guys. For years Russia and other East European nations were sanctuaries for hackers because the police either didn’t go after anyone who was just scamming foreigners or could be bribed to leave successful hackers alone. But now there is so much computer crime that police in all nations, even Eastern Europe, are more willing to go after local computer criminals if police in other nations will reciprocate and shut down hackers who are hitting people (politicians or wealthy businessmen, or the police themselves) the local police are responsible for protecting. As a result over the last decade hackers are increasingly having a harder time finding a really safe place to set up shop.