Watch a Hollywood film and it’ll depict hackers as fast-talking American kids – pale faced, coke swilling, super-smart and capable of doing the impossible. This is, of course, a fiction.
If you were a career computer criminal, would you choose to base yourself in a country with mature computer crime laws and strong-arm enforcers? No. You’d want to be somewhere comparatively lawless. If you’re looking for hackers, look east – towards China and Russia – and you’ll be barking up the right tree.
That’s what the analysts say. But even here myths and rumours get in the way. The Berlin Wall may have fallen but the KGB is still alive and clicking. Beijing has an army of hackers eyeing the West’s data. Stories of dark doings and espionage at the keyboard abound. The truth, however, is hard to come by.
Take Russia. While there’s no doubt that the ex-Soviet state is genuinely computer-savvy, is there any hard evidence that it poses a greater threat to your PC than, say, South America? In case you’re wondering, Brazil is regarded as a leader in banking trojan technology.
Are the Russians phishing like there’s no tomorrow? Or are security firms reviving Cold War paranoia in the hope of making ‘the enemy’ look bigger and uglier, all in order to sell us antivirus software?