I think Andrey is not alive already. The stakes were too high in the game in which the computer genius mixed up because of his avarice. The team with whom he worked is probably also liquidated. And this is the reason why I decided to publish this mysterious and strange article. And I would like to emphasize that I don’t assert anything, I just tell facts and enumerate strange coincidences that developed into the awful chronology. God save the soul of Andrey and the souls of victims perished in the WTC disaster.
He called me in May 2001 and asked for an appointment. When we met in a cafe in Moscow’s Arbat Street, he introduced himself as Andrey. He was a tall dark-haired young man with his left brow nervously twitching. Andrey waved the smoke of my cigarette aside with disgust and spoke in a rather confused manner. At first, it seemed he was an ordinary madman with some defects connected with his passion for technique. But as the conversation proceeded I realized the man was sane. And some of the facts Andrey nervously told me were further confirmed with events that actually happened. And now, when the man is very likely not alive, I think I have a right to tell about our conversation.
- You see, I am a hacker. But I’m a hacker of the upper ten, to be more exact, an informal leader of a group consisting of highly qualified hackers. We can crack absolutely everything; I think there is hardly a safety system that could resists us. Some of the team live in Russia and others abroad. We know majority of the team by nicknames only.
First of all, how can you prove that you are the leader of a super hacker group? And second, even if it’s so, why do you need me, investigating journalist?
It is quite easy to prove I’m a hacker. Take the disk and have a look, there are lots of interesting things on it. (I opened my laptop and was extremely surprised to see some of my personal files with dossiers on Kremlin officials, there was also my confidential electronic correspondence on the disk). It is no problem to crack your home computer. Before calling you, I looked into your computer. And your second question why I need you requires a very long answer and probably sounds absolutely crazy. But the life will clear things up.
Andrey and I talked for several hours. And not to waste time, I will give an abridged monologue of my interlocutor; I excluded computer terms, foul language and different digressions from the main topic.
- Within the past time me and the guys accomplished no trivial machinations, such like credit cards and money transfer from banks. We worked for influential clients, big businessmen, Russian oligarchs among them (certainly I won’t mention the names, they are well-known people). We collected information; for instance, we could erase information from computers of competitors, download bank transactions documents, and so on. Several times I saw results of our work in newspapers. A couple of times we cracked servers of your colleagues in different editorial offices. And we were paid wonderfully for this work. But events that recently occurred seriously scared me.
A month ago, in the middle of April 2001, some men contacted me as a leader of a group of international hackers. I’m absolutely confident of my intermediaries, we have been getting orders through the people within the past two years. But that time the intermediaries violated the rules for the first time and organized a face-to-face appointment with prospective clients.
The appointment was in a restaurant; I saw four middle-aged men. One of them was of an Arabic appearance and two were Mongoloids (I cannot discern Japanese, Chinese and even Uzbeks from each other). The fourth man was Slav, and as I understood from his accent, he was an Ukrainian. The latter introduced himself as Igor and immediately asked if I could speak English. When I said that certainly we could speak English, he whispered something to the rest three men and said it was he who would to speak on behalf of the rest of the company. And it was an important condition to speak in English so that other men could understand as well.
The task the man were speaking about was as follows: my guys were to crack the network of a New York bank, a branch office of the bank was in one of the WTC towers. The bank’s computer base was located there as well. My guys were to disperse themselves over different countries, hack the bank and transfer 1.5 billion dollars from the bank accounts to accounts of different offshore companies. At that, Igor said that we would get all necessary information about the bank: accounts, passwords, and so on. Obviously, a man from their group was working in the New York bank. For this work we were to get 5% of the sum that we would manage to transfer.
It is strange, but Igor warned me that we had five months for preparations; the operation was to be held early in September 2001. One more fact worried me extremely at that moment: we were not asked for taking any particular security measures in the operation. Igor told me that nobody would seek for money or for us; he added that at that very period some events would happen which would exclude any possibility of finding hackers or money, not to mention the addressees who would get the money.
I was quite embarrassed with the information, but at the same time I had a strong wish to perform the last order and retire for taking up some serious work. Igor warned at once that if we refuse to take up the order we would have problems, as he and his partners revealed too many secrets to me. I agreed and said it was important to discuss the issue with my guys to start preparation for the operation. When Igor and I met next time he gave me an advance payment to cover our expenses, 50 thousand dollars. We needed money for moves, renting apartments and on equipment. When we work, we have to change places and even move from one country to another. When the work is over, we often have to destroy equipment with which the work was done.
And I decided to contact you, a journalist, because I seriously doubt that Igor and his people will keep us alive, as the sums involved in the machination are incredible. The other day I learnt that the people appealed to some more groups of hackers and made the same order, at that they paid money in advance as well. I think that 50 thousand dollars are an insignificant sum as compared with the money the people expected to transfer from New York. I think that Igor and his people wanted to act the following way: they hired several hacker teams (three or five) which start preparation for hacking of the bank; then Igor picks out only one of them, the best prepared one, the rest groups are to be liquidated to foul the trail.
I came to you because I’m scared; I don’t understand how they will organize the events which, as they say, will guarantee our safety. I cannot even imagine what this can be as it is practically impossible to guarantee our safety. And I have some feeling that Igor is just a man of straw, there are some more influential people behind the plan. Probably these are the people whom I saw at our first meeting in the restaurant.
You see, if something happens to me, you can publish the story and people will understand. Let’s have it this way: if I feel some serious danger I will send you some signal; let it be the word “digger”.
In five months I practically forgot my meeting with Andrey; he never showed up and nothing extraordinary occurred since that time. Then September 11 came: WTC towers in New York collapsed in a moment. At first, I couldn’t even imagine that the American tragedy might be somehow connected with the story told by my computer acquaintance. Next day I had a telephone call, it was Andrey, he almost cried: “Do you understand that they have dared to do it? Do you understand? I couldn’t even guess, I had no idea…I’m on the other end of the planet, but they will find me all the same, they don’t want me to be alive.” End of connection.
I was awfully shocked at that moment: everything coincided, five months passed since we met with Andrey before the NY catastrophe occurred. The operation center of the bank Andrey spoke about was in one of the WTC towers. And it is quite natural that nobody will investigate how and where 1.5 billion dollars were gone from the bank as a result of the terrorist attack. Everything coincided.
Certainly I cannot affirm that the New York blasts were connected with activity of the hackers and a criminal group who wanted to steal (or probably even did it) 1.5 billion dollars. But several coincidences put a number of questions, to some of them I still have no answers. It is unlikely that I may get them one day.
Seven months later after that I had no more proofs to confirm or to refute the above mentioned story. But in the middle of April 2002 something strange occurred to me and I decided to publish the story. Someone cracked my home computer and embedded a virus destroying the system and the programs. The computer went mad. It seemed to be an ordinary failure, but my every attempt to repair the computer was in vain: the only one word “digger” came up to the screen of my computer constantly. The word was the code Andrey promised to send me if something happened to him.
There were several Russian highly qualified computer specialists working in American commercial and bank structures who died in the 9/11 tragedy in the WTC towers.
Oleg Lurier, KurierWeb
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