In the modern technological world, all nations are competing to outdo each other. Conflicts are not limited to the confines of conventional battlefields due to geopolitical conflicts, but also the misuse of technology to intercept important information of opponents or to interfere in the internal political arena. Words like cyber attack or hacking are now heard almost all the time. But when the state emerges as the savior of hackers involved in these crimes, all the equations change, with the issue of technical security having to sit at the negotiating table anew.
Opponents can be easily identified on conventional battlefields. But the new war that has started in the modern age through cyber warfare or technology, you have to burn a lot of wood to identify your opponent, yet there is no guarantee of accuracy. And the battlefield is so large that with the click of a mouse, important information about the military secrets of a country thousands of miles away is seized or the website is disrupted. All in all, the new topic called ‘Nation State Hacking’, which is being discussed a lot, has brought to the fore such incidents as theft of information from foreign countries or hacking of websites by unscrupulous hackers using the technological advancement of the states.
A hacker is an image of a person or a group of people hiding themselves, who keep themselves hidden from everything in the world and sit for hours in front of a computer screen, whose lives are not interrupted in any particular way. The things that are very incomprehensible to the common people about technology are pulses and rice to them. Hackers always want to stay out of the discussion, love to involve themselves in the battle of technology from behind the scenes. In the case of nation-state hacking, it is even more important to remain secretive, as diplomatic relations between the two countries are likely to end in bitterness if the adversary senses it. That’s why when the state uses hackers, the hackers get state protection.
There is a reason behind every hacking or cyber attack. Just as there must be a reason behind every action according to the causal rules of logic, there must be a reason behind every attack by hackers in the state. This could be an attempt to steal important information, to warn opponents about their own technical dominance, or to lure hackers to avenge a political event. Hacking is much more affordable than conventional warfare. In military warfare, where huge sums of money have to be spent on weapons of mass destruction, there is little cost in conducting cyber warfare (compared to conventional warfare). In addition, the issue of civilian-military casualties in conventional warfare is also very important for every state, but there is no such problem in the war of technology.
In the current case of nation-state hacking, China’s name is being pronounced quite loudly. It is thought that there are thousands of hackers under the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, who are conducting numerous hacking campaigns in the national interest of China. The role of hackers in the Sino-US trade war cannot be underestimated. For years, China has struggled to seize not only important military information but also the intellectual property of American scientists and researchers. Chinese companies are developing their own innovations by harnessing the research information available to US scientists and researchers as ‘intellectual property’ through hacking. Occupying the global market, the company that is now able to bring new versions of products through constant innovation will survive. According to a US study, the United States loses about 300 billion a year due to the acquisition of intellectual property by the Chinese.
Chinese hackers and Chinese spies are playing a huge role in China’s healthcare improvement graph, which is rising every year. In fact, the technologies that are still being developed in the health sector are largely being done by Western European countries. In this case, China is working to bring European technology to its country through hacking and intelligence. Hacking is an attempt to seize intellectual property. Suppose a French scientist has designed a new model for the development of a technology used in healthcare or is on the verge of inventing a new device. In this case, the job of Chinese hackers is to somehow steal various information about the design or possible discovery from the computer of that scientist. If the stolen information or design is later handed over to the Chinese Communist Party, they will use it to improve health care. In this way, it is possible to radically change any government sector of a country through hacking.
The geopolitical situation is responsible for the activities of state hackers in Iran or North Korea. Currently, the US Trump administration is trying its best to isolate Iran through various sanctions. On the other hand, relations between North Korea and the United States are not good. Geopolitical differences with Shiite-majority Iran and other Middle Eastern countries can be openly speculated. And since the Korean War, North Korea’s relations with South Korea have been at an all-time low. Iran’s cyber-attacks are mainly carried out in Sunni countries in the Middle East. Attempts have been made to seize the military websites of these countries, unwittingly interfering with the social media accounts of military dignitaries. On the other hand, the main target of the North Korean attack is the website of the US military bases located in South Korea and South Korea. The idea is that North Korean hackers have been trained in China and Russia.
Russia, like China, does not have thousands of hackers, but those who do, should have no doubts about their skills. It is said that Russia is the most skilled hacker in the world. The Kremlin spends large sums of money on hackers, and Russia is already at the top of the world in terms of technology. Incidents such as interfering in the 2016 US presidential election show how skilled Russian hackers are. When the crisis was raging in Georgia in 2006, it was clear from the hacking campaign of Russian hackers that the Russian government was using their hackers in place.
Hackers in the United States and Israel use technologically advanced devices. It is generally believed that the United States conducts hacking in the interests of its own national security, with the aim of ensuring the security of its own government websites or important military information. North Korea, Iran, Russia or China – all target America. So America has to use hackers for its own benefit to ensure state security. However, it is not the case that America does not conduct hacking at all in foreign countries. Many of the world’s most vicious campaigns have been run by US hackers. The use of malware known as Stuxnet has caused great damage to Iran’s nuclear program, which has been done by US hackers.
Originally nation-state hacking campaigns or operations were officially classified, nothing was made public. Even then a lot goes into the media. In 2006, Israel learned that Syria was secretly pursuing a nuclear program. The Israelis launched an airstrike to destroy the nuclear plant. It is said that before the airstrikes, Israeli hackers hacked and disrupted the Syrian military’s air defense system. An Iranian hacker group hacked the official website of Saudi Arabia’s famous oil company Aramco in 2012 using a virus called Shamoon. Later, Iranian hackers deleted a lot of information from the website and hung pictures of the burning of the American flag on the website’s homepage. In 2013, the malware was found on millions of Android smartphones in Russia and Russian-speaking countries, where it is thought that Russia did so to monitor its own people.
We all know the bitter relations between India and Pakistan. Geopolitically, the two countries are eternal enemies of each other. More than once they have been involved in war. The technology battle between India and Pakistan is also going on all the time. In 2009, a Pakistani hacker group called the Pakistan Cyber Army hacked the official website of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s highest police agency, and shut it down. In 2012, Pakistani hackers took over about 100 government websites. In retaliation, Indian hackers also launched a massive hacking campaign called ‘Operation Hangover’.
The country, run by almost all authoritarian rulers, has powerful hacker groups. In the national interest of these countries, hackers try their best to hack foreign websites or spy through malware. One of the great advantages of states in conducting cyber warfare is that they can wage war in disguise, which is also economically viable. It is often seen that where intelligence agencies fail and come back, hackers see the face of success. In the days ahead, when technology becomes completely dependent, hacker groups will become more powerful, and states will be drawn to more and more vicious hackers.