Tuesday 15 April, 2014
I don’t mean to pick on any particular country here, whether it’s just invaded a neighbor (ahem, Crimea) or it’s growing into an economic force to be reckoned with, which makes me want to point an envious finger at its faults, but if you’re getting hacked or spammed to death, there’s a good chance your attacker is from either Russia or China.
Is there something in the Russian or Chinese character that makes them excellent hackers? Of course the answer is no. There are other factors involved. And, as I’ll reveal at the end of the article, they may not be the hotbeds we think they are, especially in the coming years.
A few years ago, the FBI carried out Operation Ghost Click, where it busted a major cybercrime ring. All of its members were ethnic Russians. The ‘king of spam’ Oleg Nikolayenko was also Russian. Cyber gangs operate throughout the massive country, many of which are run by the Russian mafia.
You can blame the fall of the Soviet Union for much of the cybercrime that comes out of Russia. It left in its wake a huge number of highly skilled technicians and no jobs where they could use their skill. Naturally, just as it happens in any economically depressed area, many of them proactively created jobs for themselves – stealing money through the internet.
The Underground Economy
Many of the exploit kits and other malware programs floating around the World Wide Web were built, distributed and used by Chinese hackers. China is a vast country with a huge population where there’s a thriving underground economy. In this economy, along with the large-scale bootlegging of DVDs and other petty crimes, there are giant cyber gangs, the members of which are more tech-savvy than your average street thug.
With such a large underground economy, it’s virtually impossible for the Chinese government to control the flourishing of cybercrime. It has tried and, in fact, made significant progress in recent years, but the crooks are smart and savvy, so it’s a constant cat and mouse game.
A Foreign Threat?
Before you start seriously worrying about the foreign cyber-threat washing up on our virtual shores, here’s something to consider. A 2009 report found that just over half of all malware originates in the United States. According to a Sophos report from the same year, China was only third place in spamming and has since dropped to 20.
The truth is that cybercrime is increasingly internationally. Cyber-crooks operate without borders and they’re in all corners of the world wherever there’s an internet connection. A hacker in Country A develops an exploit kit, sells it on a forum hosted by Country B to a would-be hacker in Country C, who then uses it to steal from honest folks in Country D. What can any one country do about it?
As an internet user, stay vigilant against all threats by keeping your security software up to date and practicing safe internet use.