Russian Economy Slump Will Bring Its Hackers to U.S. Shores

Rising unemployment and an economic downturn may lead to an increase in cyber attacks from Russia, according to a senior consultant at an independent Russian cybersecurity research organization.

Oleg Demidov, speaking to SC Magazine notes that increased unemployment and a lack of economic opportunities may result in hacking groups looking at a widening pool of unemployed IT talent in Russia to hire and engage in cybercriminal activity.

Furthermore, there is an increased demand for hacking services from groups that are state-sponsored and affiliated with the Russian government, according to Demidov.

A significant portion of cybersecurity attacks targeting the U.S. have come from China. This includes many recent incidents wherein airlines, healthcare organizations, entire federal employee databases among other targets have been compromised. If Russian hackers also start adding to the cyberattacks, it could be a grim situation, according to the consultant.

Russian Hackers Differ from the Hackers Based in China

While a majority of Chinese hackers are deemed to operate on a “low-skill” level while particularly focusing on investigating and snooping in on U.S. websites constantly, Russian hackers seek to look for specific operations that contain sensitive and critical data. This includes defense secrets, blueprints and other information.

“The attacks by Russian hackers are [also] usually based on a combined approach, with the use of cyber-means, and the ‘human factor’,” he added.

As an example, he notes the US-led coalition while operating in Afghanistan had its plans hacked by malicious flash drives that Russian operatives or ‘special forces’ smuggled into the targeted offices. This shows a heightened level of human engineering, a trait that the consultant contends the majority of the Chinese hackers do not possess.

Furthermore, Russian hackers have also been active within the country too, with a recent report that nearly 74 million cyber attacks took place targeting Russian state bodies within the country in 2014.

The Russian government has apparently distanced itself from newly founded hacker groups, despite a majority of the country’s hacker groups alleged to have operated in tandem with the Russian government in the past.

A series of economic sanctions, falling oil prices and distractions in Ukraine have all caused foreign investment into Russia to fall drastically, leading the country’s talented IT force to be a large pool to pick from for cybercriminal hacker groups.