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Soviet Hackers

// Rise of Russian Cybercrime...

Hey Hackers! The United States has had many conflicts with foreign powers over civil history. Conflicts with Great Britain during the Revolutionary War, Germany throughout World War I and II, and the Middle East for the War on Terror. Each of these wars held a unique domain of war. The Revolutionary war sent soldiers across oceans. The World Wars implemented new tactics of aerial and tank warfare. The War on Terror started through the tactic of terrorism. But all of these wars resulted in a severe loss of life, fighting, and killing. But there is one war on a foreign power that worked through a completely different domain, The Cold War.

 
 

//The Cold War:

The Cold War introduced a war domain that worked through power and politics. However, Soviet relations during The Cold War created tensions with the United States that last to this day [with modern-day Russia]. These conflicts continue to evolve, but their “battlefield” evolves too. This battlefield evolves into the domain of cyberspace, all due to the polytechnical advances made in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.


//The Rule of Joseph Stalin:

In the world of Russian cybercrime, Joseph Stalin could be considered the founding father of it all. Joseph Stalin was the General Secretary of the Soviet Union. Joseph was a member of the Communist Party and leader of the Soviet Social Democratic Labour Party. Both of the aforementioned parties were focused on a socialist-based economic system. Where financial gain from products and services was more evenly split with the workers who created them. In concept, this economic system may sound appealing, however, it is not very ideal in practice. Most countries that practice socialist or communist economic systems will end up in poverty and famine. Spoiler alert, that’s exactly what’s about to happen with The Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union, under the secretarial rule of Joseph Stalin, had many conflicts that commenced in World War II. On August 23, 1939, Stalin initiated the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. This was a pact of non-aggression between the powers of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. This pact served as a method for The Soviet Union to coincide and trade in peace with Germany. A week after the treaty was signed, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, inciting the United Kingdom and France to declare war on Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union later assisted in invading Poland and had an eventual victory. However, only two years later, Nazi Germany invaded The Soviet Union. This event triggered the conflicts that resided between the two powers. Nazi Germany continued to extend their war efforts and capture new territories. Global conflicts proceeded until 1945, where The Soviet Union invaded Berlin and won World War II.


//Polytechnical Russia:

It was with this Soviet Victory that inclined Stalin to take charge of The Soviet Union as its dictator. Stalin implemented a communist-based economic system into the Soviet Union. On top of this, Stalin wanted to build The Soviet Union into the military-industrial complex that it is today. To do this, Stalin implemented a system called, “Polytechnical Schools”. Polytechnical Schools are an education system that is focused on teaching technology and engineering skills. However, these schools were rid of moralistic classes to promote Soviet motives. The classes that teach young students how to act, the difference between right and wrong, and general ethics were all removed from these schools.

In an interview, Andrei Soldatov, the writer of The Red Web, stated that “students were taught concepts like, ‘an engineer should only provide technical expertise and ‘an engineer should never question authority".

This results in The Soviet Union having generations of students who grow up to be engineers with little ethics. Consequently, The Soviet Union became the largest community of engineers in the world, while under the rule of Joseph Stalin.

Joseph Stalin and his community of engineers turned their focus to nuclear warfare. Stalin wanted to create an atom bomb and advance the front of nuclear weaponry. The Soviet Union also wished to keep their existing title of power, with Red Army troops located in Iran and the other European States. The United States started to implement Air Force bases in global areas if Soviet Relations were to continue to escalate. All these conflicts led to western powers creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, otherwise referred to as NATO. The Soviets did not become a part of NATO to continue their hold of power. As conflicts amongst the allies grew, The Cold War began and escalated. The race of nuclear arms, power over foreign countries, espionage, and even space were all parts of The Cold War.


//Moving Into a New Age:

With Stalin’s eventual death on March 5, 1953, the systems that he implemented were so refined, The Soviet Union kept them in place. When the Soviet Union fell, it became what we now know as modern-day Russia. With the collapse of The Soviet Union, polytechnical engineers ended up in or took charge of technology companies that backed Russia’s economy. These engineers have no moral backing and are completely willing to offer their services in the favor of the Russian government. This resulted in a huge technological boom within Russia. Where engineers were able to create and develop new technologies, and in exchange, offer their products and services in the government's favor.

Despite The Cold War coming to a close, the tensions between powers never diminished. The Cold War sought after new domains instead of fighting on a battlefield. Earlier on, nuclear warfare was considered the new battlefield. However, nuclear warfare could never truly be practical. This is due to nuclear counter defenses and the result simply being nuclear fallout. Space was then considered a new possible battlefront for war. Being able to launch attacks from space and monitor foreign activities. Although some principles of this are currently being used, it was never considered a battlefront of war due to how expensive it was. The most prominent domain of the cold war was espionage.


//Cyber Espionage:

Espionage was an essential part of the “battlefront” of the cold war. Gathering intelligence off of foreign powers was near essential throughout this period of time. Especially as Russia and The United States were racing to the next domain of war, whether it was nuclear warfare or the race to space. These powers needed to stay one step ahead of each other to keep a strong position within the war. At first, they relied on spies to conduct espionage on each other. Spies would infiltrate foreign governments and report vital information back to their home country. This method of espionage was semi-effective, but it put human lives at risk. There were also other complications such as traveling to foreign countries, successfully gathering intel, and the consequences if a spy were to be caught. However, with the boom of technology, the ability to conduct cyber espionage was born.

Cyber espionage allowed countries to monitor foreign activities throughout the growing use of technology. The ability to gain unauthorized access into a system, otherwise known as hacking, allowed these governments to gather intelligence on a whole new level. However, what once was considered cyber espionage soon became cyberwarfare. As tensions between these foreign powers escalated, so did their tactics. A vital example of this is the story of Edward Snowden.


//Edward Snowden:

Snowden was a security professional for the National Security Agency, often referred to as the NSA. During his time at the agency, he developed a phone tracking software, designed for the sole purpose of information intelligence. Snowden rose through the ranks and eventually ended up working in a military base located in Hawaii. It was only then, Snowden realized that the software he developed had truly gone to use. The military was using the algorithms from the software to guide missiles to enemy targets more effectively. Rather than having unguided missiles track a target, the missiles would track the target's phone. This ensured that the missiles would always hit the intended target.

On top of this, Snowden also learned about the existing privacy invasion that lies within the United States government on United States citizens. Government officials could monitor American citizens through their webcams, keystrokes, and on-screen activities. This became a huge concern to Snowden, so through an act of treason, he stole classified information from the United States government. Snowden took this intel, and as result, leaked it publicly to the internet through WikiLeaks and other news networks. Now Snowden was considered both a hero and a terrorist by the general public.


//Bad Actors:

So where does Russia fall into this? Snowden’s leak allowed Russia to gain further intelligence on the United States government and its capabilities in the world of cyberwarfare. Due to this, Russia offered Snowden refuge for two reasons. The first was to protect Snowden from being on the run for his acts of treason against the United States. The second and more likely reason was to humiliate the United States. By allowing Snowden to seek refuge in Russia, it would serve as a win against the United States. If the United States were to ever attempt to extradite him, it would cause extensive foreign conflicts between the United States and Russia.

The refuge of Edward Snowden was Russia’s most powerful move in the world of cybercrime. But it was not until 2016 that Russia made their most controversial play yet, the United States Election Hack. The Russian government committed a cyberattack on The United States, with the intention of boosting candidate Donald Trump's campaign, and ultimately harming Hilary Clinton’s campaign. They first were successfully able to leak Hillary Clinton's emails. This made a huge dent in Hillary’s campaign but it wasn’t until the Russian government instructed Russian hacker groups to exploit the actual election process.

The Atlantic Council, during an analysis of Russia’s involvement in the election, declared that “Russian hacker groups APT29 (Cozy Bear) and APT28 (Fancy Bear) penetrated the DNC’s networks, apparently separately. APT28 also gained access to the DCCC’s networks. In addition, Russian actors targeted twenty-one US state or local electoral boards”. But the United States was not the only one to be targeted by Russia. Russian hacker group, Fancy Bear, was also responsible for government-level hacks of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. One example of such is when “German officials blamed APT28 (Fancy Bear) for the 2015 hack of the Bundestag and other cyberattacks aimed at Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

//Colonial Pipeline:

The world of cybercrime is very proficient in Russia. Statista.com states that there were over 237,000 cases of digital fraud within Russia. Russia has become a “homeland” for hacker activity. With confirmed or unconfirmed Russian Government Involvement, these hackers still commit acts of cyberterror on foreign countries. One major example of this was the Colonial Pipeline Attack of 2021. The Colonial Pipeline is a gas line that provides gas to facilities and gas stations from Texas, all the way to New York. This cyber-attack rendered those facilities useless, as they could no longer provide gas to the general public and other major groups. The hacker group who took responsibility for this attack, and held Colonial Pipeline for ransom, was dubbed, DarkSide.

Forrest Knight, a computer science educator, who reported on this incident stated, “on Thursday, May 6, 2021, after spending a week just poking around the network seeing what's going on because at this point nobody knew they had gained access they launched their ransomware attack that took only two hours to encrypt and steal 100 gigabytes of data from the colonial pipeline and shortly before 5 am the next day a ransom note was found by a control room employee demanding millions of dollars in cryptocurrency”. [08:42 - 09:02]

This attack caused huge amounts of harm to the general public. United States citizens were pouring gas into grocery bags and Ziploc bags. This hack wreaked havoc and resulted in fights, fires, and many people getting hurt.


//Summary:

Russia has heavily been involved in foreign cyber conflicts. With confirmed Russian government involvement or not, the matter of fact remains the same. Currently, there is a huge deprecation of cybersecurity-related jobs. In this modern day and age, anyone can commit an act of cyber warfare. The internet provides plenty of malicious scripts that can be run with ease. But these bad actors do not understand how computers work, how to break into computer systems, networking, or even how to program. The need for cyber security professionals is extremely vital, especially as we move into the world of cyberwarfare. Cybersecurity education may serve as the world's sole savior. If the general public knew how to code and how their computers worked, they could fix them with ease. If these citizens understood the dangers of malware and how it gets onto computing systems, they could more easily avoid phishing attacks, social engineering engagements, and so on. By teaching the concepts of cyber security, it is preparing the general public, and future generations, to enter cyber-related fields, and be the new frontline of protection in the world of cyber warfare. Thanks for reading, and as always,


Happy Hacking!


// Socials:

© 2022 by Cosmodium CyberSecurity LLC

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