According to Sergei Pavlovich, one of the Russian-speaking world’s most notorious hackers, “it is easier to hack an electoral system than eBay or Citibank”. The Belarusian cyber-criminal known as Policedog online started hacking early on, and by the age of 20 he says he was earning $100,000 a month as a “carder”, turning stolen credit card information into cash. By the early 2000s he was one of the leading figures in the Russian and Eastern European cyber-underworld. In an exclusive interview Pavlovich, now 33 and with a 10-year jail term behind him, gives a rare insight into a community that has been accused of carrying out aggressive cyber-activity on behalf of the Kremlin. Allegations that the Russian government deliberately hacked Democratic party emails to try to steer Donald Trump to victory in the US presidential election have been rebutted by the now president and denounced as “baseless” and “amateurish” by the Kremlin.
While Pavlovich says he won’t comment directly on the US election hacking allegations he does say it is getting easier to access government organisations across the world thanks to the help of new apps being developed every day.
That is coupled with the fact that “everything that is created by a human can be destroyed. You can create the most perfect system of computer protection but wrongdoers will ring the administrator and, using some excuse, get the admin password out of them.” This exercise is made easier by the fact that people often use identical passwords for all of their accounts, he adds.
According to Pavlovich “the hardest things to hack are commercial banks, online payment systems, processing centres, ATM machine networks, dumps with pins and large commercial portals like eBay”, because they can afford to hire more qualified specialists to keep their systems secure.