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State sponsored hacking is, truth be told, something of a mixed bag of motives, capability and success. It can be quite difficult, even for government agency and IT security professionals who spend much of their time engrossed in such things, to determine with any degree of certainty just who is hacking whom. In this article, I have a go at pointing the wagging finger of blame.
The consensus within the IT security industry is that China is almost certainly the most prolific of the nation state hackers, closely followed by the United States. Odd then that these two should have recently reached an ‘accord’ which agreed that neither country would “conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property”, but which stops short of saying that cyber-spying must stop entirely.
Just as it’s pretty much a given that the US continues to hack Chinese concerns, as well as others across the world, so China does the same. Although not much is publicly known of the US state-sponsored spy activity, outside of the Snowden/Wikileaks revelations, much more is known when it comes to China and Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) 3rd Department.
Obviously, those countries with plenty of economic clout or political/military will are amongst the most prolific and successful (whether publicly recognised or not) of nation state hackers as they tend to have the best resourced hacking teams. The exception to this rule are tinpot dictatorships which can redirect resources wherever the great leader/ruling nutjob sees fit. This is why North Korea makes it into our list.