RSA Conference: Cyber criminals and state-sponsored spies working as one
RSA Conference: Cyber criminals and state-sponsored spies working as one

There is a disturbing new trend that will worry anybody involved with IT security - figures from the shadowy world of cyber crime are linking up with people involved in corporate espionage, state espionage and cyber warfare.

This was the claim made by British journalist Misha Glenny, author and journalist specialising in cyber crime, speaking at RSA Conference Europe 2012 in London.

This results in a climate where cyber crime and industrial espionage were becoming intertwined, making it difficult for the relevant law enforcement and military institutions to handle.

He said: “This interplay between the two groups of espionage groups and hackers is causing things to become very confused. The areas are collapsing into one another.”

Glenny believed the origin of this was with the operation Carderplanet, an innovative criminal website that provided members with a marketplace for millions of stolen credit card accounts. Speaking to the founders many years later, he found out that they had a deal with the FSB, the successors to the KGB.

The FSB would not prevent the hackers from hitting targets in the West for debit and credit card fraud, in exchange for them not going after Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus. The FSB allegedly told the hackers "if we require your services for purposes of national security, then you will provide them".

Glenny felt it was clear that cyber attacks on Estonia and Georgia in 2007 and 2008 were whipped up by the Russian government, but could be denied as state-sponsored due to criminal hackers being involved.

He added: “Since then, cyber crime and credit card fraud has started to level off. But what we've seen instead are targeted attacks on companies, agencies and institutions around the globe shoot up. The worlds of the cyber criminal, spook and corporate raider are becoming indistinguishable.”