A young Russian hacker was surprised to see her computer company on the United States sanctions list last week.
The White House fact sheet claims Alisa Shevchenko’s company “provided the GRU with technical research and development.” No details or proof was given.
The GRU is Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.
In her recent interview with The Guardian, Alisa Shevchenko described herself as “a typical introverted computer geek” who is self-taught. She declined to say how old she was, stating it was an “impolite question.” She said, “If you really need a number then go ahead and make it up based on my photographs.”
Shevchenko is known for working with companies to help them discover any flaws in their computer systems.
Her interview with The Guardian was done via encrypted email. She claims she is currently located a few hours away from Bangkok. She also said she is furious at her company’s inclusion on the blacklist, and denied ever working for the Russian government.
She says the level of hysteria around the entire ‘Russian hacking’ story is insane, and suggests the U.S. authorities were guilty either of “a technically incompetent misinterpretation of the facts,” or it has been fooled by a counterfeit in order to frame her company.
“Those who could have had an interest in me could include competitors, U.S. intelligence, or Russian intelligence, with the goal of screening the real culprits,” Shevchenko said. “A young female hacker and her helpless company seems like a perfect pick for that goal. I don’t try to hide, I travel a lot, and I’m a friendly communicative person. And most importantly, I don’t have any big money, power, or connections behind me to shrug off the blame. So really, it could be anyone.”
Shevchenko is a college dropout. She told the Guardian she dropped out of three different universities because she didn’t enjoy the structure of a university. Then in 2004, she joined Kaspersky Lab, a high-profile Russian cyber security firm. She left the firm to set up her own company, initially called Esage Lab, but later changed the company name to ZOR. Both company names are on the U.S. sanctions list.
Shevchenko says she specializes in finding so-called “zero-days”, previously undisclosed software bugs that could leave companies vulnerable.
Shevchenko admits that in the past she was approached repeatedly by people she believed to be from the Russian government, although she insisted that she had always rejected the advances. She said she had not been threatened or intimidated as a result.
Shevchenko claims she had turned down plenty of offers of work based on ideological grounds. “I never work with douchebags. I only work with honest and open people that I feel good about,” she said.
Shevchenko closed ZOR more than a year ago citing how difficult and expensive it was to do the public relations work required to build up her business.
She now works as a “one-man army.”
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