National Security

A ‘jester’ outpaces U.S. government at retaliatory hack on Russia

This is the Twitter profile of a hacker who goes by the name @th3j35t3r, or the Jester
This is the Twitter profile of a hacker who goes by the name @th3j35t3r, or the Jester

A self-described “guy in a jingly hat” claims to have beaten the U.S. government to the punch and retaliated against Russia for a series of recent hacks.

The American hacker, known as @th3j35t3r, or The Jester, hacked the website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday night and posted a rambling message addressed in English to: “Comrades! We interrupt regular scheduled Russian Foreign Affairs Website programming to bring you the following important message.”

It accused Russia of giving refuge to former NSA contractor and massive leaker Edward Snowden, carrying out a series of hacks the fed material to WikiLeaks, and launching a massive attack Friday on the internet’s backbone.

“You snuggled up with Trump and are openly and actively trying to influence another nations election,” the statement said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova acknowledged in a Facebook post Sunday that an archived version of the ministry’s webpage had been hacked but that page had not been in use for more than a year.

She added rambling commentary of her own:

"If it is established the hack was carried out by the Americans, even if it is a resource that is not in use, then that's not very good because it shows that either the cyber-machine of destruction talked about by (Vice President Joe) Biden and (former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Michael) McFaul has started operating, or this hellishly provocative electoral campaign in the U.S. has got people into such a state that they begin to destroy everything in their path," Zakharova posted.

The Jester’s identity is not publicly known but he identifies himself as a “gray-hat hacktivist” operating out of patriotism. His hacking targets have included the Taliban, the hardline Islamic militants in Afghanistan; the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its hate speech; and the Ecuadorean government, which in 2012 offered refuge in its London embassy to Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks.

On his webpage, the Jester headlined a post calling himself a “guy in a jingly hat” and explained his thinking about the hack.

“This was not meant to be an earth-shattering mega-hack. It was a gentle light hearted message, for which I do not apologize,” he wrote.

“How do u poke a Russian Bear? - Gently wave a stick in front of his face til he has no choice but to run into it,” the Jester tweeted Sunday.

On his Twitter profile, the Jester identifies himself as a “Cyber Minuteman” and says he had a cameo role in Mr. Robot, the USA Network’s television series about vigilante hackers.

Tim Johnson: 202-383-6028, @timjohnson4