• United States



CSO Perspectives: Why there are so many criminals in Russia

Apr 06, 20112 mins
Data and Information Security

The first keynote of CSO Perspectives is under way, being given by Joseph Menn, Financial Times and Los Angeles Times journalist and author of “Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet.”

He’s talking about the Chinese government’s involvement in the intellectual property attacks on Google and other technology giants, on the struggle by Congress to protect the private sector, and on the growing threats of cyberwar and unchecked organized cybercrime.

Menn just gave an interesting view of Russia, long the stereotypical haven of black hat hackers. Interesting enough to share here.

Sign up today.

Get your morning news fix with the daily Salted Hash e-newsletter!

He explained why there is so much criminal activity in Russia this way:

In Russia there is no Silicon Valley where computer experts can make a living. Jobs are scarce, and the Russian world view of crime is different from, say, the U.S.

“Cyber crime is just another career opportunity to them,” Menn said. “Even the good guys are on the take. The way to tell if it’s a good guy is to find out what he’s taking the bribe for.”

For Russian law enforcement, cybercrime cases are another revenue stream.

During one of my visits to Kaspersky Lab’s Woburn, Mass. office in 2007, Eugene Kaspersky essentially told me the same thing.

Seated at a conference table with the digital recorder running, I asked him why so much malware was coming out of Russia.

He explained that after the break-up of the Soviet Union, a lot of computer programmers and code writers had nowhere to go. It became a game of earning a living any way you could.

As the criminal underworld began to see the value of launching their hits in cyberspace, a big job opportunity arose.

For those writing the malware, Kaspersky said, it’s not unlike the fellows working on missile technology at Raytheon in the U.S. They’re not the one who will pull the trigger if the weapons are used. They just build it and have little idea of where their handiwork is later used.

For the typical Russian hacker, it’s a similar mindset. They just write the stuff. They’re not necessarily the ones launching the attacks and picking the targets.

–Bill Brenner