USSR’s old domain name attracts cybercriminals

MOSCOW — The Soviet Union disappeared from the map more than two decades ago. But online an `e-vil empire’ is thriving.

Security experts say the .su Internet suffix assigned to the USSR in 1990 has turned into a haven for hackers who’ve flocked to the defunct superpower’s domain space to send spam and steal money.

Capitalist concerns, rather than Communist nostalgia, explain the move.

“I don’t think that this is really a political thing,” Oren David, a manager at security firm RSA’s anti-fraud unit, said in a recent telephone interview. David noted that other obscure areas of the Internet, such as the .tk domain associated with the South Pacific territory of Tokelau, have been used by opportunistic hackers.

“It’s all about business,” he said.

David and others say scammers began to move to .su after the administrators of Russia’s .ru space toughened their rules back in late 2011.

Group-IB, which runs one of Russia’s two official Internet watchdogs, says that the number of malicious websites hosted across the Soviet Union’s old domain doubled in 2011 and doubled again in 2012, surpassing even the vast number of renegade sites on .ru and its newer Cyrillic-language counterpart.

The Soviet domain has “lots of problems,” Group-IB’s Andrei Komarov said in a phone interview. “In my opinion more than half of cybercriminals in Russia and former USSR use it.”

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.

Internet hosting companies generally eliminate such sites as soon as they’re identified. But Swiss security researcher Roman Huessy, whose abuse.ch blog tracks botnet control sites, said hackers based in Soviet cyberspace can operate with impunity for months at a time.

Asked for examples, he rattled off a series of sites actively involved in ransacking bank accounts or holding hard drives hostage in return for ransom – brazenly working in the online equivalent of broad daylight.

“I can continue posting this list for ages,” he said via Skype.

The history of .su goes back to the early days of the Internet, when its architects were creating the universe of country code suffixes meant to mark out a website’s nationality. Each code – like .fr for France or .ca for Canada – was meant to correspond to a country.

Some Cold War-era domain names – such as .yu for Yugoslavia or .dd for East Germany – evaporated after the countries behind them disappeared. But the .su domain survived the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the creation of a .ru domain in 1994, resisting repeated attempts to wipe it from the Web because, unlike other defunct domains, those behind .su refused to pull the plug – on both commercial and patriotic grounds.

With more than 120,000 domains currently registered, mothballing .su now would be a messy operation.

“It’s like blocking .com or .org,” said Komarov. “Lots of legitimate domains are registered there.”

Among them are stalin.su, which eulogizes the Soviet dictator and the English-language chronicle.su, an absurdist parody site.

But experts say many are fraudulent, and even the organization behind .su accepts it has a problem on its hands.

“We realize it’s a threat for our image,” said Sergei Ovcharenko, whose Moscow-based nonprofit Foundation for Internet Development took responsibility for .su in 2007.

Ovcharenko insisted that only a small number of .su sites are malicious, although he acknowledged that criminal sites can stay online for extremely long periods of time. He said his hands were tied by weak Russian legislation and outdated terms of service. But he promised that stricter rules are on their way after months of legal leg work.

“We are almost there,” he said. “This summer, we’ll be rolling out our new policy.”

Meanwhile .su has become an increasingly notorious corner of the Internet, an online echo of the evil empire moniker assigned to the Soviet Union by U.S. President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago.

David, the RSA manager, said the emergence of a Communist relic as a 21st century security threat was a bizarre blast from the past.

“I thought that the Berlin Wall and my grandma’s borscht are the only remnants of the Soviet Union,” he said. “I was wrong.”

ad-high_impact_4
News
NSPCA Gets Kittens From LA
Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like