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Ransomware HQ: Moscow’s Tallest Tower Is a Cybercriminal Cash Machine

One of the city’s most prestigious addresses houses companies providing a vital service to hackers.

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Illustration: Jinhwa Jang for Bloomberg Businessweek

The crown jewel of Moscow’s business district, a 97-story glass tower known alternately as Federation Tower East or Vostok, is a tribute to Russia’s post-Soviet economic influence and national strength. Promotional materials for the building, which was the tallest in Europe when it was completed in 2017 and is now No. 2, boast of its highly paid staff and its supposed fortification against “missiles and explosions.” Its apartments are rented and owned by high-ranking government officials and C-suite executives. Residential units sell for upwards of $36 million.

The building has also been home to more than a dozen companies since 2018 that convert cryptocurrencies to cash, judging from the addresses listed on company websites. Although there’s nothing inherently illegal about this, such businesses can enable criminals to cash out profits from digital crimes if they don’t vigilantly monitor their customers, and some find lax oversight to be a useful market niche. Experts have linked at least four of the companies in Vostok to money laundering associated with the ransomware industry, which has generated $1.6 billion in ransom payments since 2011, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.