Convicted Russian Hacker Nikulin To Be Sentenced In U.S. Federal Court
September 30, 2020
Yevgeny Nikulin, the Russian man dubbed the “Putin” of the Russian
hacking world by another colleague, is set to be sentenced in a U.S.
federal court after being convicted of hacking LinkedIn, DropBox, and
other Internet companies.
Nikulin’s sentencing, set for U.S. District Court in San Francisco on
September 29, will bring to a close a nearly four-year process that
began with his surprise arrest in the Czech Republic in October 2016.
Prosecutors have asked for a nearly 12-year prison sentence for Nikulin
after a federal jury in July found him guilty on nine counts related to
the hacking of several major U.S. social-media companies.
Lawyers for Nikulin, who pleaded innocent to the charges, have asked the
judge for leniency, citing among other things, childhood abuse at the
hands of his father and the suicide of his older brother. They asked the
judge to sentence him to time served: essentially, to the time in U.S.
custody since his arrest in Prague in October 2016.
Nikulin, who was extradited to the United States 17 months after his
arrest, was targeted by U.S. law enforcement as part of a multiyear
campaign to arrest some of the most notorious Russian hackers and
More than a dozen have been arrested in various countries, a development
that has enraged Moscow, which has accused Washington of “hunting”
The campaign undermined years of cooperation between U.S. law
enforcement and Russian intelligence on various cyberinitiatives.
But it has also yielded insights into how Russian intelligence agencies,
including the FSB, allegedly used hackers as part of their operations --
including efforts, documented by U.S. intelligence and U.S.
congressional committees, to interfere in the U.S. presidential election
In one filing submitted by prosecutors in Nikulin’s trial, U.S.
officials revealed they had interviewed a hacking colleague of Nikulin’s
in Moscow. The man, identified in court documents as Nikita Kislitsin,
met with FBI agents at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in April 2014, where
he offered details on Nikulin and other hackers.
to the filing, Kislitsin described Nikulin as being very wealthy with a
reputation for owning expensive sport cars. Kislitsin said Nikulin’s
hacking skills were well known, and he called him the “Putin of the
hacking world” -- a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kislitsin was indicted himself in U.S. District Court in San Francisco
on separate hacking charges. He later went on to work for a prominent
Moscow cyberresearch company Group-IB.
Court papers also revealed an alleged business relationship between
Nikulin and Aleksei Belan, who was later sanctioned by the United States
and then indicted for his alleged role in the theft of more than a
billion e-mail addresses belonging to Yahoo.
Some of Belan’s efforts were directed by an officer at Russia’s main
intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service, according to court
papers filed in Nikulin’s trial and in the Yahoo indictments that named
Belan, and two Federal Security Service officers.