Russia is reportedly letting convicted crackers take a seat in its offensive operations units, as an alternative to doing time.
The effort, said to have started in 2013, saw at least one legitimate security professional flee Russia to seek asylum in Finland after he allegedly refused to help operate a distributed denial of service attack tool Moscow planned to buy from a Bulgarian firm, Meduza and the New York Times report.
Alexander Vyarya ran a distributed denial of service attack defence service for independent media, and the website of Russia opposition leader Alexei A Navalny, and the reports say police contacts told him to flee the country.
Much of the recruitment, including advertisements taken out on Russian social media site VK (VKontakte), appear equivalent in content and bluster to those in the US, UK, and Australia, promising good careers in national cyber defence.
Indeed, the Australian Signals Directorate, among other Western spy agencies, is often touting its hacking credentials with roll-up banners wheeled out at hacking conferences. It has for some years now bought free pizza for the roughly 500 hackers at the Ruxcon hacking confab in Melbourne.
However, saving criminals from looming prison sentences by serving government hacking posts is something so far not reported outside of Russia.
Convicted spammer and physicist Dmitry A Artimovich told the New York Times he opted for a year in a Russian penal colony when in 2013 he learned from a cellmate that Moscow would offer freedom in exchange for working in its cyber units. ®