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NYT says Ukrainian hacker a witness in DNC hacking case

He wrote a code which was used in the hacking attack.

NYT says Ukrainian hacker a witness in DNC hacking case
Photo: Depositphotos/darknula

A Ukrainian hacker, known under the online alias "Profexer", whose programme was used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), turned himself in to the Ukrainian National Police early in 2017 and has now become a witness for the FBI, The New York Times has said.

"There is no evidence that Profexer worked, at least knowingly, for Russia's intelligence services, but his malware apparently did," the paper said.

Profexer wrote a malware programme called the PAS web shell and made it available to download for free. The real money was made by selling customized versions and by guiding his hacker clients in its effective use. It remains unclear how extensively he interacted with the Russian hacking team, the paper said.

After the Department of Homeland Security identified his creation, he quickly shut down his website and posted on a closed forum for hackers, called Exploit, that “I’m not interested in excessive attention to me personally.”

Serhiy Demedyuk, chief of the Ukrainian Cyber Police, said in an interview that Profexer went to the authorities himself. As the cooperation began, Profexer went dark on hacker forums. He last posted online on 9 January. Demedyuk said he had made the witness available to the FBI, which has posted a full-time cybersecurity expert in Kiev as one of four bureau agents stationed at the United States Embassy there. The F.B.I. declined to comment.

Profexer was not arrested because his activities fell in a legal gray zone, as an author but not a user of malware, the Ukrainian police say. But he did know the users, at least by their online handles. “He told us he didn’t create it to be used in the way it was,” Demedyuk said.

A member of Ukraine’s Parliament with close ties to the security services, Anton Herashchenko, said that the interaction was online or by phone and that the Ukrainian programmer had been paid to write customized malware without knowing its purpose, only later learning it was used in the DNC hack.

He confirmed that the author turned himself in to the police and was cooperating as a witness in the DNC investigation.

In 2016, the USA imposed sanctions on Russia over attempts to meddle in the US election.