Alleged Russian spies suffered from dreadful IT support


— 1:16 PM on July 6, 2010

By now, you've probably heard about those 11 alleged Russian spies who were attempting to gather intelligence and penetrate "policy making circles" in the U.S. What mainstream media coverage hasn't delved into, however, is the IT side of the spy operation—and how it contributed to the spy ring's undoing.

As Network World reports, the tech support department of the Russian SVR (think KGB 2.0) didn't exactly offer world-class service, taking months to resolve problems and leading agents to make serious blunders:

In another case, replacing a laptop took more than two months. A suspect bought an Asus Eee PC 1005HA-P netbook, flew with it to Rome, picked up a passport in another name, flew on to Moscow and returned with it -- a process that took from January this year to March. Presumably Moscow headquarters configured the device.

When the courier spy delivered it to another suspect, he described what to do if the laptop had problems. "…if this doesn't work we can meet again in six months," one suspect was overheard saying to another, "they don't understand what we go through over here."

Network World says one alleged spy based in New York City became so frustrated with a wireless connection issue that asked an undercover FBI agent to fix it—after that agent admitted, "I am not the technical guy...I don't know how to fix it" and suggested she fly to Moscow with the machine. Her response? "It would be more convenient if I gave you it."

Oh, but it gets better. One of the spy suspects reportedly locked down sensitive data with an "imposing" 27-character password, but was careless enough to leave the password written on a piece of paper at his home. Using the password, the FBI was able to uncover "more than 100 text files containing covert messages used to further the investigation." (Thanks to Gizmodo for the link.)

   
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