Cyber Hysteria

Governments and media credit Russia with fearsome hacking capabilities―which happens to suit Moscow very well. The West should take concrete counter-measures, " writes Mark Galeotti in his analysis for Berlin Policy Journal.

It is not entirely surprising that Russia has made a name for itself in the cyber world. Russians are, after all, good at hacking―very good. It’s an ironic by-product of backwardness. If one goes back to the 1980s and 1990s, and even the 2000s, Russians were often unable to buy the latest technology that we in the West could access; at the same time, Russia is historically strong in mathematics. Quite a few Russians, deprived of the programs we rely on, actually learned to code. Hacking systems and programs was meant as a workaround, but these hackers eventually developed a subculture of their own.

Hackers are by definition nearly always ahead of the game. They are looking to exploit vulnerabilities that are largely unknown until they are weaponized. Because of this, hacker activity often says more about Western vulnerabilities than Russian capabilities. The Russians have not really been able to break anything that is not broken already; they have merely been able to exploit opportunities. Rather than recognize what this means about our own failings, we often use the Russians as scapegoats.

Conversations with those in the security establishment and military in Moscow inevitably reveal the extent to which they feel Russia is at war with the West―a war they believe the West started. This is a non-connected, non-military war, one where they are fighting for Russia’s place in the world and Russian sovereignty.

At the same time, under Putin, Russia is invested in a campaign to make Russia great again, to assert itself as a great power when in fact it is not. Despite Russia’s vast physical scale, its economy is smaller than that of New York state. Its soft power is almost non-existent. And its military power, while not inconsiderable, is reaching the point of being overstretched.


You can read the full article here.

Dr Mark Galeotti is the IIR Senior Researcher, the Co-ordinator of the Centre for European Security of the IIR as well as an internationally recognized expert on transnational organized crime, security issues and modern Russia.