Here’s a minor paradox. The countries where organised hacking is risky are all considered ‘open’ societies, free of oppressive government control.
Conversely, the two countries notorious for hosting such people – Russia and China – are among the world’s most controlled states, supposedly keeping tabs on everyone and everything.
Unsurprisingly, few believe anything can happen in Russia and China without the government knowing about it, including the hacking of the military systems of other countries. Not for the first time, the Chinese military has been accused this week of poking its nose into Pentagon servers, even though the evidence to support this view is circumstantial. And the same applies to Russia’s supposed digital war on Estonia a few months back.
So how is this possible? The defining feature of societies is not actually just their openness (a relative measurement anyway) but their accountability. An accountable society has within it the same malevolent forces, but it is much harder for them to hide these agencies to hide from the law, from the government, from the population, on an indefinite basis.
In a closed, controlled society, by contrast, it is very possible to hide because the means by which something can be made public depends on a few people in power. If they don’t notice – or care – then the malevolent can remain anonymous and active for much longer.
If we are to argue against this notion then we would have to explain how it is that so much malware comes from the two countries mentioned. It is entirely possible that the hacking detected by US authorities has official sanction in the Chinese government. But it is also possible that it emanates from one small bit of that government and is not necessarily ordered from higher up.
The final bit of the paradox is that it is also possible that the US does precisely the same thing back to the Chinese military but we never hear about that at all. And why? Because the Chinese don’t complain about it, using the ‘closed society’ principle that the less said the better, which brings us back to the bare facts - the US and other western countries are now regularly accusing the Chinese and Russians of all sorts of activities.
Conclusion: we’ll know Russia and China are changing when they do complain. Complaint is the national anthem of the free.