Who are the attackers?

The headlines surrounding the US Presidential Elections in 2016 often had talk of hacking and subsequent leaking of embarrassing data in an effort to discredit one or the other parties. But just who is doing this?

The finger is often pointed at Russia or China. For the Russians, while they remain committed to hacking business information that will assist their competitive standing in the world, their first priority is collecting military information. In comparison, the primary objective of China’s cyber collection capability is to enable their state-owned enterprises to dominate on a global economic level. But are are all nation-state hacks from these two players? Clearly not, as Colombian hacker Andres Sepulveda claims to have used a variety of ‘dirty tricks’ to influence elections in Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, El Slavador, Colombia, Mexico,Costa Rica, Guatemala and Venezuela over the past 10 years.

Hacking for political gain is not new. For example, both the McCain and Obama US Presidential campaigns in 2008 were compromised by hacks on their offices where sensitive data was taken and publicly used.

A worrying change to this cyber game is the masquerading as a particular country or person as a way of hiding blame or pointing it at an innocent party. This was highlighted in the recent WannCry malware attack, where part of the code checked for the keyboard language and, if it was Russian, did not execute the WannaCry exploit. Was this really put in to protect Russian machines? Or was it to point the finger at Russia for launching the exploit?

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