Russian Hacker Dmitry Sklyarov Arrested by FBI Goes Missing

The 27-year old Russian programmer and hacker who was arrested after Defcon was last spotted at 3 pm Monday, when he made a brief court appearance in Las Vegas. He’s charged with violating the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The 27-year old Russian programmer and hacker who was arrested after Defcon was last spotted at 3 pm Monday, when he made a brief court appearance in Las Vegas. He’s charged with violating the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Now he’s adrift inside the federal prison bureaucracy. A managing director of ElcomSoft, Sklyarov’s employer, says he has no idea where his colleague is. Says ElcomSoft’s Vladimir Katalov: “Of course they really worry about him, because FBI/police didn’t allow Dmit to talk to his family.”

An informed source in the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco said that after Sklyarov’s court visit on Monday he was turned over to the U.S. Marshals. The source said Sklyarov is likely out of contact since he’s in transit to California. Typically prisoners are moved to a holding facility in Oklahoma until there’s a scheduled transport to San Francisco, much as FedEx routes packages through central hubs.

The government source said prosecutors receive almost no warning from the marshals when prisoners will appear — sometimes they get a phone call, and sometimes the marshals simply take the prisoner to the court with no notice.

The U.S. Marshals did not return phone calls. The U.S. Attorney’s offices in San Francisco and Las Vegas said they did not know where Sklyarov was.

An assistant U.S. Attorney in Las Vegas said that he wasn’t familiar with the details of the case, but in general meeting with a detainee isn’t a big deal: “Anyone can meet with a prisoner, you just head up to the prison and ask to see him.” (That supposes that you know where he is.)

Rene Valladares is an assistant federal public defender in Las Vegas who represented Sklyarov during the hearing on Monday. He said Sklyarov would arrive in California between now and two weeks from now (at the latest), at which point a judge will decide if he needs a public defender.

As a side note, the chief of security for the Alexis Park Hotel — where the Defcon convention took place and where Sklyarov was arrested — professed to know nothing. When asked about the arrest, he said: “I have no idea.” When pressed about contact with the FBI, he admitted: “The FBI advises us if they are going to be on our property, but they don’t tell us why. The FBI did advise us they would be on our property Monday morning.”


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) says in section 1201 that: “No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof” that has as its primary use (or is marketed as) circumventing copy protection. Sklyarov is charged with one count of trafficking in illegal circumvention software.

Section 1203 of the DMCA includes civil remedies, which is what the movie studios are using against 2600 magazine. 2600 distributed DeCSS via its website at no charge.

Section 1204 of the DMCA lists the criminal penalties — up to a $500,000 fine and five years in federal prison. Those apply to “any person who violates section 1201 or 1202 willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain.” This section took effect in October 2000. Because Dmitry’s firm sold their software for “private financial gain,” the Feds believe they can prosecute under the part of Sec. 1204 that would likely not have applied to 2600.

A prediction: Because of the DMCA, U.S. conferences with cutting-edge technical content in this area likely will begin to move offshore or to Canada. If you present your paper at a U.S. conference and get paid to speak, you could be the next person nabbed by the FBI. Even if there’s no “financial gain,” you or the conference organizers could be sued civilly (see the threats against Ed Felten’s abandoned presentation at the Information Hiding Workshop in April).

Relevant links:

Department of Justice press release (7/17/2001)

free-sklyarov mailing list (7/18/2001) (7/18/2001)

EFF notice on protests scheduled for July 23 (7/19/2001)

PlanetEBook report on arrest (7/16/2001)

Text of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act photographs:

Photos from of DMCA appeal (5/2001)

Photos from of DMCA protest on Capitol Hill (4/2000)

Photos from of DMCA trial (7/2000)

Photos from of Defcon ’00 (7/2000)

Politech archives:

Politech archive on U.S. v. Sklyarov

Politech archive on DeCSS lawsuit against 2600 magazine

Politech archive on Princeton University’s Ed Felten’s struggle with the recording industry

Politech archive on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

News articles: (newest first)

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Hacker Arrest Stirs Protest

Jul. 19, 2001 06:45 ET /news/politics/0,1283,45342,00.html

Arrest in e-book fraud case

Jul. 19, 2001 05:51 ET /chronicle/archive/2001/07/18/BU166008.DTL&type=business

Arrest in e-book fraud case

Jul. 19, 2001 05:50 ET /c/a/2001/07/18/BU166008.DTL

FBI arrests software writer

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Jul. 18, 2001 19:35 ET /news/01/168098.html

Russian to face US hacking charges

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Russian faces e-book copying charges

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Jul. 18, 2001 17:11 ET 20010718/tc/tech_hacker_arrest_dc_3.html

Arrest fuels Adobe copyright fight

Jul. 18, 2001 11:10 ET,4586,2790369,00.html? chkpt=zdnn_nbs_hl

FBI arrests software writer

Jul. 18, 2001 05:45 ET docs/020263.htm

Russian computer programmer arrested

Jul. 18, 2001 05:45 ET business/top/011788.htm

DMCA bust at Def Con

Jul. 18, 2001 04:59 ET templates/article.html?id=225

FBI agents pounce on Defcon hacker

Jul. 18, 2001 04:47 ET 995446010&6004REQEVENT=&REQINT1=45819&REQSTR1=newsnow

Russian Hacker Arrested After Las Vegas Convention

Jul. 17, 2001 23:11 ET tech_hacker_arrest_dc_1.html

FBI nabs Russian expert at Def Con

Jul. 17, 2001 21:10 ET,4586,5094266,00.html? chkpt=zdnn_nbs_hl

FBI Arrests Russian Creator Of E-Book-Decoding Software

Jul. 17, 2001 17:35 ET news/01/168042.html

Russian hacker arrested after convention

Jul. 17, 2001 15:40 ET TECH/internet/07/17/hacker.arrest.reut/index.html

eBook security debunker arrested by Feds

Jul. 17, 2001 14:35 ET content/55/20444.html

Russian Adobe Hacker Busted

Jul. 17, 2001 12:45 ET politics/0,1283,45298,00.html

Author: Declan McCullagh

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