The only member of Shaltay-Boltay left on the loose reveals details on their work
St. Petersburg programmer Alexander Glazastikov, who was hiding under the mask of Shaltay-Boltay (Humpty Dumpty), hoping for a political asylum reached out to the former President of Estonia. He is the only member of Anonymous International who remains at large.
Fontanka has been chasing the last Shaltay-Boltay member for a week. One member of the mysterious hacker group, which has been leaking e-mails of businessmen and officials for three years was found in Estonia, but shied away from a direct talk.
After the news came that Anonymous International members Vladimir Anikeev, Konstantin Teplyakov, and Filinov were arrested, it was not difficult to single out their colleague Alexander Glazastikov. The ‘scary hackers’ themselves, as it turned out, were quite unrestrained on social networks and left striking marks on the Internet.
Five days ago, Alexander Glazastikov gave an evasive answer to the straight question sent by Fontanka via e-mail. Three days ago, he admitted to being one of the Anonymous International on condition of anonymity. Then, he agreed to an interview saying "Come to Estonia".
When, on the arranged day, a Fontanka reporter arrived to Tartu, Alexander dropped a bombshell: "I'm on my way to Tallinn: already twenty kilometers away from Tartu." He suggested: "I can wait at the gas station Valmaotsa. Drive up, let's go together." It was the offer, from which one cannot refuse. A taxi was found quickly.
When the meeting took place, the Shaltay-Boltay member, who was easily recognizable due to the photos from the web, surprised the journalist once again: he silently passed him the ignition keys from the SUV. After a question, he explained: "You will have to drive, I was drinking beer while waiting." There wasn’t much of a choice, and the correspondent of Fontanka drove the hackers group member to Tallinn to meet with the crew of Dozhd TV-channel and Ksenia Sobchak. 180 kilometers and two hours of time was enough to have a decent conversation.
- Alexander, you are probably the only member of the Anonymous International who managed to remain at large. You’re in Estonia, the Russian justice is far away, can I call you by your name and surname?
- Perhaps, you can. Anyway, tomorrow or the day after, I will officially reach out to the authorities for a political asylum. The FSB already knows my name.
- They know the surname. And who are you in the Anonymous International: Shaltay or Boltay?
- Shaltay, Boltay ... what a mess. Initially, when starting this project, Shaltay-Boltay was supposed to be a spokesman for the Anonymous International. Mainly, I was doing this job. Then, Anikeev started introducing himself to the reporters as Lewis and got everyone confused.
- How many people initiated the Anonymous International?
- Me, Anikeev. Teplyakov helped with some things, but purely technical aspects.
- Who is Filinov, whose arrest was reported in connection with Shaltay-Boltay?
- I don’t know the man. He was not involved in the creation of the Anonymous International. I think this is Anikeev’s acquaintance, who accidentally got under the press. I’ve heard his name for the first time, when the media wrote about his arrest.
- Have you known Anikeev and Teplyakov for a long time?
- For a long time... There was a resource called Damochka.ru. When basically no social networks existed, and VKontakte only began to emerge, everyone was on this website, it was one of the most fun projects. In the real world, meetings of the website users were held, some users just organized those parties – Dima Gryzlov, Nikolai Bondarik, and Anikeev. That’s how we met. Much later, in mid-2013, the idea of Shaltay-Boltay appeared.
- How? Did you just decide that you would steal e-mails of bad people?
- Anikeev had sources of information, the information itself, important and interesting one. Anikeev decided to leave the information and analytical structure for which he had been working, and start his own project.
- Could this project be called a business?
- It depends… It was assumed that the project will bring substantial financial result, but initially it was made partly out of ideological considerations.
- But Anikeev is not a hacker at all, judging by the stories of his former colleagues.
- True. If he needed to install any software on the computer, he would usually ask me to do it.
- But Teplyakov is a programmer.
- His role has been greatly exaggerated. He's just our mutual old friend. When we were getting significant numbers of files that had to be processed, we would ask Teplyakov to help, for a fee. We knew him and trusted him.
- And why did you join this project?
- Just then, I was beginning to get annoyed with the country, I decided to go to Thailand. When I started discussing this project with Anikeev, it seemed okay: you could engage in an interesting and promising business from home. What did I expect in financial terms? Definitely not the sale of arrays of information. I was rather thinking about advertising or administration fee. Lite-version.
- With a reference to the investigation, there was information that Shaltay-Boltay has a whole network of agents with special equipment, who, at places popular among local officials, steal information by creating fake Wi-Fi connections. Do you have a network?
- Complete nonsense. There were discussions about getting to know technical possibilities like this. As far as I know, and I know a lot, in fact, we didn’t have it.
- Where did you get the information from, then?
- From specialized hacking sites, one can order hacking someone else's e-mail box for a few thousand rubles.
- It worked successfully. If you remember 2014 was the most fruitful year. Serious stories, serious figures, and no commerce. Strelkov, Prigozhin...
- Out of the three years that the project existed, 2014 was the most significant. I am proud of that year.
- But, from 2015, the Anonymous International has become almost a purely commercial project. How much money did you manage to earn?
- Only one or two million dollars.
- So, you are now a rich man?
- No. Most of the money was spent on operating expenses, so to speak. There were about fifty boxes in the work. Plus, there were variants in which a transaction was made not via bitcoins, but with the help of Anikeev’s friends; these intermediaries could ask for two thirds of the whole amount.
- Was there anyone above you and Anikeev? For several years, people have been wondering who Shaltay-Boltay works for?
- Funny. Everyone is looking for conspiracy, but, in fact, it was a ‘quick and dirty’ project made by me and Anikeev. However, at some point, in the summer or in the spring of 2016, Anikeev said that some person from the FSB found us, he knew our names. Allegedly, military counterintelligence was looking for us, but the FSB found our meadow attractive and decided to take control of our petty pranks. They, supposedly, were uninterested in the commercial part of the project: the scale was much bigger, but they wanted to supervise the project and to have the veto right. Mikhailov's name was not voiced, in fact, no one's was. Nothing, actually, happened: no one used the veto right and no one leaked any information. If these mysterious people existed at all. And who turned whom in: they – Anikeev or Anikeev – them, or even third force got them all, I do not know.
- How quickly did you find out about Anikeev’s arrest?
- The next morning. He sent me a selfie from Pulkovo Airport, wrote that he checked in and flies to Minsk. The next morning, it was reported that he was arrested and transported to Moscow. Given the subsequent events, it could be the game of the FSB. Then, he contacted me, convinced that he solved all the issues and now works under the control of the FSB, called in me to Russia, but I didn’t believe him for some reason.
- Did Teplyakov believe?
- Teplyakov, in the summer of 2016, moved from Thailand to Kiev. He had no permanent earnings, he depended on Anikeev. When the game was on, and it was claimed that the project would continue, but he needs to come to Russia and work there under supervision, for safety reasons, as well, Teplyakov didn’t have much of a choice. He went to Russia.
- Is there somewhere a chest with Shaltay-Boltay’s information?
- Good question. I need to think how to respond. Well no, not really. What was sold and purchased by the clients was deleted. What was sold was fairly deleted and this information doesn’t exist anymore. Perhaps, some of our customers are now concerned about this question, but what was declared, was implemented. Some operative material that we had been working on, I also deleted. Maybe a couple of screenshots were left in the trash bin, but nothing more.
- Alexander, you're going to submit a request for a political asylum. Aren't you afraid that Estonians will simply put you in a cell? In this country, they are very sensitive to computer security, and the specificity of computer crimes lies in the fact that, for committing them, one can be prosecuted in almost any country?
- My position is that I was not personally involved in the cracking of passwords and sending malicious links. To me all that information was already delivered in an open form. Yes, it was, probably, stolen...
- So were you ordering its thefts or not?
- Who did, then?
- All the information came from Anikeev. I published the received information, perhaps, by illegal means, but I have nothing to do with how it was obtained. Yesterday, I sent a letter to the former President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves. I think by our actions, especially in 2014, when we were working on the idea, I deserved asylum in Estonia. So far no response was received.
We drove to Tallinn. More and more texts came to Alexander’s telephone from Dozhd TV journalists, who were preparing to shoot with Ksenia Sobchak. After leaving the car in the parking lot, we said goodbye. Alexander Glazastikov promised to inform when he receives a reply from the Estonian government.
It is to be recalled that Glazastikov’s colleagues from the Anonymous International are awaiting trial in a predetention center. The law enforcement agencies arrested Vladimir Anikeev and his two probable accomplices: Konstantin Teplyakov and Alexander Filinov. The latter two were arrested as early as November 2016, and, on February 1, the judge of the Lefortovo District Court of Moscow extended their detention until April. The alleged leader of the Anonymous International, who was acting under the nickname Lewis, was arrested on January 28 after a short time spent in the company of police officers; he confessed.
All three are charged with the crimes stipulated under part 3 of Art. 272 of the Russian Criminal Code (Illegal access to legally-protected computer information, which caused a major damage or has been committed because of vested interest or committed by a group of persons by previous concert through his/her official position).
Initially, the media associated their criminal case with the investigation on the FSB staff and the manager of the Kaspersky Lab, who were accused of treason, but later, the lawyer of one of the defendants denied this information.
The Anonymous International published a lot of information from the correspondence of officials and businessmen between 2014 and 2016. Among the disclosed information was Dmitry Medvedev’s hacked Twitter, and e-mail, Facebook, iPhone and iPad of owner of NewsMedia Holding Aram Gabrellyanov; e-mail and WhatsApp of TV host Dmitry Kiselev, official correspondence between the employees of "Prosecutor’s Office" and the "Ministry of State Security" of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, and a lot of other, equally interesting information.
Before Anikeev’s detention, Shaltay-Boltay also obtained the correspondence of the presidential assistant Vladislav Surkov.
“People see them walking in the market. But we do not approach them and do not make a selfie with them. We do not care who they are,” said a representative of the city authorities about Putin’s relatives.