So what’s that Russian “potato” virus that was used to hack Target actually called?

Ceci n’est pas un kaptocksa.
Ceci n’est pas un kaptocksa.
Image: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The virus that was used a couple of months ago to steal 40 million people’s credit-card details from American retailer Target was, it was recently revealed, called “Kaptoxa”—which, as English-language news outlets are helpfully explaining, is Russian slang for “potato.”

Well, sort-of. In Russian, potato is картофель, or “kartofel”—a borrowing directly from the German Kartoffel. The typical colloquial term is картошка, or “kartoshka”. Картоха is a less-common variant. And though the Cyrillic letters all look like Latin ones, it’s pronounced ”kartokha.”

So if you want to show off your connoisseurship of Russian hacker trends without sounding silly, try not to talk about the “kaptocksa” virus. The way to say it is “kar-TO-kha” where the kh- is like the German or Scottish ch. (If that’s a struggle, just say “kar-TO-ha.”)

(Strangely enough, some Russian news sites are using the Latin rather than the Cyrillic letters to refer to the virus. So technically, they’re calling it “kaptocksa” too. Go figure.)