Information Warfare: The Empire Takes Care Of Its Own


August 5, 2013: The Soviet Union (the Cold War era Russian empire) was supposed of have dissolved in 1991, but in some respects it still lives. Case in point is the habit of malware (software used by hackers to steal) developers to live in countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan). These hackers stick to the old Russian empire for protection.

It is very difficult for Western nations to prosecute these “Soviet” cyber criminals because these hackers always build their malware so that it will not work in former Soviet states. Technically, it is possible to modify that malware to change that, but the Soviet hackers have an unwritten understanding that all will turn on anyone who attacks the homeland. The reason for this policy is that the governments of the former Soviet states will not extradite or help foreign police find Soviet hackers who adhere to this code.

There are still plenty of non-Soviet hackers more than happy to pick up the slack, but the Soviet hackers also provide an informal cyber militia to help their governments deal with cyber threats, especially those from foreign criminal hackers. This sort of cooperation is nothing new. Before the communists replaced the czar in the early 1920s, criminal gangs would often cooperate with the secret police, especially against foreign spies and revolutionaries. Despite the gangs ratting out so many communist rebels, by the late 1920s, the new communist secret police was again using gangsters regularly, at least those that had survived the civil war.

The hackers still get prosecuted by Western governments. Some have this done after they have travelled in the West, not knowing that the police had secretly identified them and had border guards alerted. Others were indicted and prosecuted even though the defendants were safe in one of the old Soviet states. But Western governments are becoming more aggressive in pressuring former Soviet states to stop this illegal (according to international law) sanctuary program for criminal hackers. So far, this is slow going. The hackers have made a lot of money via Internet crime and they have shared much of it with local government officials, who don’t want to give up that income just to placate some foreigners. 


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