From the Salem Witch Trials to McCarthyism and the Red Scare, the United States has a history of latching onto “scary” ideas and not letting go. Since the presidential election in November 2016, the new U.S. fear has centered around Russia and cybersecurity. Rumors that Trump is in cahoots with Russia’s Vladimir Putin have had people on edge lately, especially when he didn’t sign the new cybersecurity order back in February. Since then, it’s been revealed that Russian hackers may have had a hand in the series of Yahoo! hacks that have been plaguing the company in the past few years, adding to the general public’s apprehension.
That growing fear of Russian interference may be part of the reason why 32-year-old Russian hacker Roman Valeryevich Seleznev just received the longest ever prison sentence in the U.S. for hacking. Seleznev was sentenced to 27 years in prison last week in the U.S. for stealing millions of credit card details from businesses.
Back in August, Seleznev was found guilty of 10 counts of wire fraud, eight counts of intentional damage to a protected computer, nine counts of obtaining information from a protected computer, nine counts of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Seleznev was initially arrested and sent to Guam back in 2014. At the time, the laptop found in his possession contained 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers. Considering that the U.S. authorities claim that, from 2009 to 2013, he infected the point-of-sale systems of more than 500 U.S. businesses with malware meant to capture credit card data, that number isn’t exactly shocking.
It’s believed that that malware is how Seleznev was able to successfully steal and sell so much credit card data. By using online aliases such as Track2, 2pac and nCuX, Seleznev was able to sell millions of credit card details on specialized cybercriminal websites.
Earlier this month, Seleznev wrote a letter to the judge in which he took responsibility for his actions. In the letter, he asked the judge for leniency, to which the judge replied with a 27 year prison sentence—the longest jail term imposed for hacking crimes in U.S. history.
In my opinion, the sentence certainly fits the crime here. Millions of individuals and businesses had their personal information stolen and sold because of this man, and he certainly deserves to be punished for a long time. However, you have to wonder if the steep prison sentence is at all a product of the American fear of Russian hackers. American hacker and former U.S. Secret Service informant Albert Gonzalez only received a 20 year sentence for similar crimes in 2010—are Seleznev’s additional seven years a product of public fear? What do you think? Let us know below in the comments!