What Next can we expect: Cybercrime from Russia and China
As a tumultuous year draws to a close, many across the globe are wondering what the two rival superpowers have planned for 2023. The Russian-Chinese partnership may once have been a rocky alliance and both countries can combine expertise in the cyber world as each try to claim its claim on the global stage.
Chinese dark web platform recruits were encouraged to participate in discussions, share tips and cooperate with Russian counterparts in future attacks.
Gadgets and Playbooks
While China is described as outstanding in technological expertise, either developed on its own or acquired through spying on Western enemies it calls Russia a leader in cybercrime.
China has more money to spend, improving its weapons and navy, building up its air force, and so on. On the other hand, Russia has more experience in intelligence operations which reflects the principles of its old Soviet predecessors who wrote to all their allies and enemies before cyber threats became a problem. China's goal is clearly to gain a foothold in the region, but its overall intelligence and cyber capabilities are far behind Russia's.
The Russian playbook is used to plan covert operations because Russia has the most experience with it and operates it every day.
From decades of political scandals to spreading disinformation, conspiracy theories, increasing political distrust and sharing, identifying vulnerabilities in technical structures, and infiltration, Russia's possibilities are unparalleled. China may have better equipment, but Russia still has better capabilities to exploit them.
One aspect in which China surpasses Russia is sheer numbers.
Hundreds of Chinese spies are been arrested yearly in the United States alone. Most of them are conventional intelligence services, but China's vast cyber resources and aggressive efforts to catch up with Russia in terms of how to operate are indeed increasing. China is much more aggressively using cyber intelligence to steal intellectual property.
While the majority of cyber intrusions still originate from Russia, China is increasingly focused on spreading disinformation and engaging APTs.
Russia successfully recruits criminal actors who provide services to make money and generally target large US and private companies. Chinese APTs appear to appeal to smaller businesses and home offices and are more interested in collecting private information about users than in national security or business-type information. Comparing between Russia and China, Russia looks more disturbing.
Everything is not as it seems
If China seems less dangerous in the cyber world than it is, Russia seems to achieve the opposite. Even before the start of the war in Ukraine, it was clear that the economic potential and useful raw materials of Russia will be completely overshadowed by the United States. The head of the country has at his disposal a series of cheap asymmetric tools to implement his foreign policies. It is being used in many different areas to sow discord and division in the United States.
As for China, Cyber espionage is a key tactic in China's strategy of global influence and regional dominance, and I think we can expect an increase in these activities, especially among private sector companies.
Urging cybersecurity teams to remain flexible in determining which threat factors may be behind attacks. China's long-term goals compel it to keep individual actors at risk on a leash. While Russia is motivated by its militaristic goals, China appears to be more focused on its materialistic pursuits.