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The Jester dilemma

Posted by on October 23, 2016.

The Jester is, for me, a huge moral dilemma. Hacking is against the law. Jester is considered to be a private pro-America individual cyber vigilante hacker.

But is he? The FBI has huge success in tracking down and arresting the hackers they go for. I say nothing about the morality of their methods, only that they work.

So why is the Jester still at large? There are three possibilities:

  • he really is so good the FBI cannot find him
  • he is known but tolerated
  • he is a US government front

I have difficulty with the first, but really hope the last is false. That suggests he is known but tolerated. Either way he is a vigilante hacker who almost certainly breaks the law.

I have no problem with the basic concept of vigilantism. Indeed, wherever a government fails to protect its people or crosses the line into tyranny, it is the duty of the people to take to the streets to protect themselves, their family and their freedom. (Understanding where that line lies is a problem for everyone; but for me, the US and UK governments have already crossed it.) However, vigilantism can only apply within your own political jurisdiction. You cannot hide behind the term ‘vigilante’ and interfere with the workings of a foreign country – that’s a diplomatic provocation beyond acceptability that gets perilously close to an act of war.

If the hacking team known as Sofacy (among many other names) really was behind the intrusions into the American political organizations, and if those hackers really are linked to the Russian government, then that was a diplomatic provocation beyond acceptability. However, when advanced hackers make serious attempts to obfuscate their identity, it really is very, very difficult to know who did what. See further in my article False Flags and Mis-Direction in Hacker Attribution in SecurityWeek.

It’s slightly different with The Jester. He makes little attempt to hide what he does or why he does it. He just disguises whether it was really him. This weekend it is believed that he defaced a Russian government website:


He hasn’t, as far as I can see, directly admitted responsibility. His official Twitter account merely says

Is there enough circumstantial evidence to investigate Jester for criminal activity? I suggest that there is. Such an investigation could easily happen and easily be dropped.

But what about extradition to Russia? The United States is no slouch in demanding the extradition of hackers it believes have broken American laws. Where would it stand if Russia demanded the extradition of Jester?

This is merely a thought experiment. It won’t happen. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Russia. Indeed, the Russian constitution prevents the extradition of any Russian citizen. But that’s not the point. The point is the ‘rule of law’. America professes to abide by the rule of law. You cannot abide by the rule of law just when it suits you. America needs to be seen to do something about Jester – either to investigate and publicly clear his name; or investigate and hold him to account for breaking the law.

One thought on “The Jester dilemma

  1. Harold Jay Hoover on said:

    Extradition is an excellent idea. Let’s do it.

    The following is my petition at

    It’s also on slashdot.

    Much respect to you.

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