In this article we will learn about The Most Hacker-Active Countries.
Part II of this series continues the discussion of the countries with the most hacker activity in terms of the intensity of outbound attack traffic. This section will cover Russia (Section 5), Turkey (Section 6) and Taiwan (Section 7). Finally, a conclusion is drawn (Section 8).
“In Russia, perhaps more than in most other countries, hacker magazines and software are sold on the streets of Moscow,” says Ken Dunham, director of the American firm iDefense. The reputation of Russian programmers has been shaped by constant reports of cybercrimes committed by hackers from Russia. It’s no wonder the FBI’s most wanted person in cybersecurity is a Russian hacker.
The popularity of hacking in Russia can be explained by several factors: a large number of highly educated IT specialists with excellent mathematical and computer skills, a lack of skilled jobs, the country’s difficult financial situation and geopolitical circumstances.
In Russia, financial struggles are encouraging young professionals to seek alternative sources of income. Thus, hacking becomes a lucrative profession for experienced IT professionals who are trying to find well-paying jobs. Russian hacking activities range from creating viruses (eg MyDoom, GameOver Zeus, The Russian Snake) to reading President Obama’s emails and stealing critical information concerning US taxpayers.
As in the countries discussed in Part I of this thesis, hackers also operate in Russia in organized professional divisions, especially in cooperation with criminal groups. Alexander Gostev, a security expert at Moscow-based Kaspersky Labs, claims that “the influence of organized crime in this area is constantly growing. We are now seeing more malware written by professionals and not script kiddies as we experienced two to three years ago.”
Most of the activities carried out by Russian hackers are revenue oriented. Experienced Russian IT specialists search for cybersecurity weaknesses in American and European networks, steal financial information from individuals and companies, and create illegal spam, viruses, and worms. In addition, hacking groups threaten companies by blocking their computer systems in order to obtain financial income.
The Most Hacker-Active Countries:
A former hacker who is currently employed as a security specialist notes: “There is now more of a financial incentive for hackers and crackers, as well as for virus writers, to write for money and not just for fame or some political motive.”
Hacking crimes in Russia are seen as minor offenses. Until January 1997, when the new Russian Criminal Code was adopted, computer hacking was legal. According to Article 272 of the Criminal Code, illegal access to information stored on a computer is punishable by (1) a fine of 200-500 minimum wages, (2) corrective labor for a period of six to twelve months, or (3) ) imprisonment for up to two years. Spreading computer viruses is punishable by a fine. The maximum penalty applied if the cybercrime causes extensive damage exceeding 1 million rubles (about $17,000) is three to seven years in prison.
In Russia, government support for hackers can be identified not only in mild punishments. Taking into account that Russia is one of the main characters of the international information war, the government recognizes the importance of qualified IT security specialists and takes care of their continuous education. The military school of the Federal Security Service near Moscow is often referred to as the school of the world’s top hackers. The school trains information security and communication specialists for other positions in state institutions.
The excellence of Russian programmers can be illustrated by the fact that the largest case of cybercrime in US history was committed by Russian hackers. A group of four men from Russia and one man from Ukraine stole 160 million payment card numbers. The fraud cost the company $300 million.
Section 6. Turkey
Despite internet censorship and media restrictions in Turkey, the Turkish population is an active consumer of digital services. As of the end of 2012, Turkish Internet users are the second most online users in Europe after the United Kingdom. The Internet, and social media in particular, serve Turkish citizens not only as a communication and networking platform, but also as a place for expressing protest and citizen journalism.
The political situation in Turkey and the exceptional role of internet platforms are related to the fact that Turkish hackers usually base their activities on religious and political motives. Hackers thus focus on objects of high visibility and value rather than a large number of computer users. This factor differentiates Turkish hacking patterns from practices in the countries mentioned above.
Hacking the Vatican website, writing off a $670,000 electricity bill, attacks on domain name systems, revenge for a company that supplies poisoned milk to Turkish schools, the leak of classified government information – these and many other cybersecurity problems are assigned to the hackers at Krocan. Turkish hackers often use SQL injection, malware, web defacement, and other techniques to target their objects.
The main cybersecurity player in Turkey is RedHack, a group of left-wing hackers who deal with political issues, leak information about the Turkish government, and hack large public and corporate institutions such as the Turkish Football Federation, the National Intelligence Organization, the Turkish Police, Türk. Telecom and Air Force Headquarters. It is important to note that the Turkish government has accused RedHack of being a terrorist organization.
Despite the fact that legal measures against hackers in Turkey were adopted in 2004, it was not until 2013 that ten members of RedHack were brought to justice. The charges related to unauthorized access to private computer systems, theft of confidential documents and illegal collection of personal information. In addition, the hackers were accused of belonging to an armed terrorist organization.
In Turkey, anti-hacker legislation is based on the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. The contract contains legal measures against people who have illegal access to all or part of the computer system.
Articles 243-246 of the Turkish Penal Code state that unauthorized input into a data processing system is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine. Unauthorized transfer of data is punishable by up to two years in prison. Obstructing or damaging the operation of the data processing system is punishable by imprisonment for one to five years. The maximum penalty for hackers, six years in prison, is imposed if a cybercrime is committed to obtain credit card information.
Ozgur Uckan, a professor of economics and political science at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, suggests not to underestimate the contribution of hackers to society, especially in Turkey’s difficult political situation. The professor notes: “Without hackers, there is no progress at all, no technology at all. Because curiosity is imagination and imagination is free.”
Section 7. Taiwan
For the dedicated hacker, there is no better place to practice professional cyber security skills than in Taiwan. Due to its geopolitical location, Taiwan is a battlefield for a large number of cyber attacks. Although Taiwan is the third largest source of cyber attacks, it is also one of the most targeted countries in the Asia-Pacific region, especially when it comes to cyber attacks from mainland China.
The computer networks of the Taiwanese government, businesses and data centers are repeatedly hacked to obtain sensitive military and technological information. Benson Wu, co-founder of analytics and security company Xecure Lab, says eight out of ten government agencies “have either been targeted for a long time or have been compromised.” Additionally, hacking tactics and bugs “are practiced and verified in Taiwan before being used in other countries,” says Wu.
Factors such as political relations between Taiwan and China and a common language and culture make Taiwan an attractive target for Chinese hackers. IT security specialists note that Taiwan often becomes a testing ground, allowing hackers to practice cyber attack patterns before targeting other strategically important countries.
The frequent danger of cyber attacks encourages Taiwanese IT security specialists to improve their professional skills. Taiwanese hackers win prizes in prestigious hacking competitions such as the Capture the Flag competition in the US and Japan.
In 1997, laws prohibiting computer-related crimes were added to Taiwan’s penal code to respond to growing concerns about network security. Currently, unauthorized access to and use of another person’s computer is punishable by either a fine of up to $16,000 or up to three years in prison. If a hacker steals, deletes or alters personal information from a computer and causes further damage, the fine goes up to $32,000 and the sentence increases to up to five years in prison. If the offense is committed in relation to government computer networks, the penalties are increased by 50%.
Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish which cyber crimes are committed by Taiwanese hackers and which are non-Taiwanese hackers hiding behind Taiwanese IP addresses.
Although Taiwanese officials constantly report attacks on their computers and unauthorized use of their servers by Chinese hackers, Taiwan has been accused of carrying out major cyber attacks against the Philippine government. In addition, Google reported a cyber attack from a server in Taiwan. Similarly, part of the “Operation Aurora” series of cyber attacks was directed from servers in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s National Security Bureau (NSB), which is in charge of national security and intelligence affairs, says the main enemy of the ongoing cyber war is an army of 180,000 Chinese cyber spies. Chinese hackers are using sophisticated methods to penetrate the networks of Taiwanese government agencies and other industries to steal sensitive information.
To deal with the massive cyber attacks directed at the country, the NSB is currently creating a new department. The new unit is designated as the Seventh Department of Internet Traffic. It will deal with cyber defense. The government will employ Internet security and hacking experts to help develop Taiwan’s cyber defense strategy.
Section 8. Conclusion
In today’s networked world, hackers are seen as a subculture of highly skilled and educated computer specialists. In parallel with the development of the Internet, the role of the hacker shifted from an unsocial nerd to a highly skilled IT professional.
This article briefly described and outlined the atmosphere in the six most active hacking countries in terms of the intensity of outbound attack traffic, namely China, the US, India, Russia, Turkey and Taiwan.
In the countries discussed above, hackers are accepted not only as cybercriminals threatening national and corporate security, but also as figures who stimulate the development of IT sectors. By exploiting network security vulnerabilities, hackers promote the development of cyber security. In addition, a number of former hackers serve as information security specialists in private and public agencies.
Books and Academic Articles:
- Carr, Jeffrey. Inside cyber warfare: Mapping the cyber underworld. O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2011.
- Holt, Thomas J. The attack dynamics of political and religiously motivated hackers. Cyber Infrastructure Protection (2009): 161-182
- Jordan, Tim. Hacking: Digital Media and Technological Determinism. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
- Schema, Mike. Hacking Web Apps: Detecting and Preventing Web Application Security Problems. Newnes, 2012.
- Simpson, Michael. Hands-On Ethical Hacking and Network Defense. Cengage Learning, 2012.