The New York Times reports that a Ukrainian hacker who wrote some of the tools apparently used by Russian hackers to hack the DNC email servers in last year’s election has turned himself in to the FBI and is cooperating with their investigation. He is not suspected of taking part in the hacking.
The hacker, known only by his online alias “Profexer,” kept a low profile. He wrote computer code alone in an apartment and quietly sold his handiwork on the anonymous portion of the internet known as the Dark Web. Last winter, he suddenly went dark entirely.
Profexer’s posts, already accessible only to a small band of fellow hackers and cybercriminals looking for software tips, blinked out in January — just days after American intelligence agencies publicly identified a program he had written as one tool used in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.
But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.“I don’t know what will happen,” he wrote in one of his last messages posted on a restricted-access website before going to the police. “It won’t be pleasant. But I’m still alive.”
It is the first known instance of a living witness emerging from the arid mass of technical detail that has so far shaped the investigation into the D.N.C. hack and the heated debate it has stirred. The Ukrainian police declined to divulge the man’s name or other details, other than that he is living in Ukraine and has not been arrested.
I don’t know enough about cybersecurity to know how big an asset he’ll be in helping identify who specifically was behind the hacking, but the FBI thinks it’s important enough that they have sent four people to work in the U.S. embassy in Kiev on this matter, working directly with him. That suggests it could be a big deal in terms of the technical details of how it happened, but that doesn’t help with any possible collusion investigation at all.