Ivan the Terrible’s blood fixation, Stalin’s show trials, the prodigious killing of the Kalashnikov rifle, alcoholism and vodka, mafia criminality, feared economic oligarchs; it’s difficult to put Russia on a list with any joy on it. If the country has a tourist board, I feel sorry for them because the country’s image is about as grim at it gets.
Even now if asked to talk about Russia, I’d quickly exhaust normal topics to fall back on older memories of such as the remarkable acceleration of the Mig-25 ‘Foxbat’ jet or the combat range of the T-72 tank. And even Chekhov’s magnificent and comedic Cherry Orchard ends with the whole thing being chopped down.
The last couple of years suggest that the tourist board has another subject fit for the airbrush – malware. The Washington Post hit a nerve recently by nailing the St Petersburg-based ‘Russian Business Network’ as one of the world’s major hubs for child porn, spamming, and ID theft criminality.
“The company "is literally a shelter for all illegal activities, be it child pornography, online scams, piracy or other illicit operations. It is alleged that this organised cyber crime syndicate has strong links with the Russian criminal underground as well as the government, probably accomplished by bribing officials," the newspaper quoted Symantec as saying.
The fact that the hub has not been closed down despite officials contacting the Russian authorities is troubling, if true. The fact that Russia buzzes Norway and the UK’s stretch of the North Atlantic with obsolete Tupolev bombers and sends its scientists to claim huge chunks of the Arctic is cheap PR; letting criminality go unchecked in the face of overwhelming evidence is much more serious even though you don’t hear many news reports covering the subject.
This is the network that has even been blamed for the Storm phenomenon and, beyond that charge, the rise of the botnet in general. In fairness, we should point out that the Russian Business Network has denied that it is a front for criminality. Few are convinced.
Perhaps the tourist team sleep easily after all. The Russians have a knack of entering a state of iron-clad denial and just refusing to emerge until it’s too late.