The world powerhouses of hacking

The world powerhouses of hacking

It seems that when it comes to the disruptive science of hacking, some places are more suitable than others as operational bases. According to the cloud service company Akamai’s most recent State of the Internet Report, the top  five countries generating the world’s internet attack traffic are, in descending order: China (41 per cent), USA (11 per cent), Indonesia (6.8 per cent) Taiwan (4.2 per cent), and Brazil (3.2 per cent).

Global snapshot

China’s place at the top of the table may not surprise those familiar with a report issued by Symantec back in 2010, which focussed on the eastern Chinese city of Shaoxing. In a study of cyber-attack sources, Symantec found that some 30 per cent of global attack traffic emanated from China, with 21 per cent coming from Shaoxing alone. Key targets of Shaoxing hackers were reported, according to Hit8SecNews, as:

“[…] experts in Asian defence policy and human rights activists, strongly suggesting state involvement.”

China, however, consistently denies any government-sponsored hacking, for instance, rejecting in June 2013 that the country was appropriating US military secrets through cybercrime.

Digital warfare

However, global powerhouses of cybercrime do not necessarily stand out through sheer volume of attack traffic alone. Russia, for instance, comes quite low down on Akamai’s table of cyber-attack sources.

Yet in 2007, the eastern superpower was the source of a devastating digital assault on a whole country – Estonia. The attack was apparently provoked by the removal of a World War II memorial statue in Tallinn. The impact of the attack was significant, according to Jack Aviksoo, an Estonian Defence Minister at the time, who was reported by Wired Magazine as saying:

“All major commercial banks, telcos, media outlets, and name servers — the phone books of the Internet — felt the impact, and this affected the majority of the Estonian population.”

More recently, Russian hackers are reported to have been behind the audacious attack on US retail giant Target, which stole data from circa 70 million customers.

Small town known as Hackerville

Rumania also generates a relatively low volume of global cybercrime traffic. Even so, one small Rumanian town, Râmnicu Vâlcea (known as Hackerville in the cyber security business), has become a major centre for cybercrime. Young hackers have developed a scheme that involved stealing from credit cards in other countries, then hiring “arrows” (mules) to send them back the takings via Western Union stores. The mules get to take 30 per cent, and there’s still plenty of money to go around. reported:

“Given the many Western Union signs that have flourished in the center of Râmnicu Vâlcea, business seems to be blooming.”

All in all, it does seem that cybercrime is more likely to flourish in certain parts of the world more than others, but with one important caveat; one should always bear in mind the location-independent nature of much cybercrime. Servers might be in one geographical location, but the elusive hacker in another. As one Râmnicu Vâlcea-based hacker, known as the Ice Man, puts it:

“[Some hackers] are very rich and stealthy ghosts. I don’t think they’ll ever get caught.”

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