Various reports and news articles keep announcing how hackers, sponsored by, usually, the Russian government, broke into one or another database, emails, “hacking elections“, and so forth. But one moment stands out – the indifference with which accused authority or group meets the news of them being caught. Have there been any apologies, explanations from the Russian side about US 2016 elections? None. Were there any hesitations about WikiLeaks or Anonymous actions from their side after the fact of being caught? What unites all these actors is that none of them is worried or scared of being caught, they even enjoy it and wait for the whole world to know.
A bit of an attention syndrome, if you ask me.
The latest instance of being caught was when Dutch intelligence unveiled the attempt from Russian (government sponsored?) citizens to hack into the systems of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – the international watchdog for nuclear control. Of course, Russian government calls that a rich fantasy, but with that confident mischievous smile, that says – they’re up to no good.
Now the world even started digging the Cold War era arguments of Active Measures, supposedly revealing the network of cyber espionage and, how the New York Times put it, the “virus contaminating the democratic and liberal society”. All of the sudden, everyone’s afraid of possible Russian hacking.
So the question becomes, did Russians become so bad at espionage and covering their digital footprints, or what’s the deal?
Quite the opposite. Being caught is an integral part of communications and making the world aware of the power they fail to admit growing. The battle for impact has become more important than the actions or military capabilities in the global stage. There is no impact if nobody knows, that you hacked/damaged/meddled with something, it is not attributed to you if nobody catches you. And after being confronted, it is your freedom to reveal and admit, or to deny and make sure, that everyone thinks, that it’s still your work. Being caught shows that the perpetrator is actually capable of doing things that victim-actors are not capable of protecting themselves from. In the case of hacking, as it is true everywhere, the security system is only updated after breaches are made because defence comes after an attack. Even more, because only one international actor – in this, Russia – has been repeated over and over again as the hacker-state, its international power raises, because countries start to develop defensive measures against Russian hackers, and not hackers in general.
Even more, the actual government of a foreign country being caught interfering or trespassing international systems raises even more questions for the public – if Russia is doing it, isn’t the UK/US/*insert any country* is doing it as well? The answer is clear, they are doing the same steps and same strategies, but they don’t want their public to know that this kind of strategy for either espionage or straight-forward warfare is being employed. So being caught in a middle of action, actually, can be a part of a broader strategy – instead of leaving traces.
A similar strategy of attribution, but to a different extent, is being used by terrorist groups – especially as it was seen with several terrorist attacks in Europe when a handful of different terrorist organisations takes the responsibility for one or another attack.
At the end of the day, it is all about golden communication’s message, about being noticed and being acknowledged.
That’s it for this time.
Stay awake, and keep away from trolls!
Cartoon credit @ WRC