Wanted: Iranian hackers

by Chris Zappone

FBI director James Comey’s language in discussing the indictments of seven Iranian hackers brings to mind the language of the West.
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“The FBI will find those behind cyber intrusions and hold them accountable, wherever they are, and whoever they are,” he said.

“The world is small, and our memories are long.”

“No matter where hackers are in the world and no matter how hard they try to conceal their identities, we will find ways to pierce that shield and identify them. That is the message of this case.”

You can almost imagine John Wayne or Tommy Lee Jones delivering the words. But it’s not a joke.

The US is apparently coming to grips with this world-changing invention, and how to form a coherent response to aggression by other nation states. Thinking of the cyberrealm as an untamed frontier, one which the US cannot simply occupy, but must patrol and face showdowns in, probably makes sense.

Internally, the US has begun coordinating its prosecution to allow these kinds of cases – this is a new thing. The prosecution effort bridges national security and commercial crime in a way that is needed for the long-term strategy in the cyber frontier. Meanwhile, corporates which are long accustomed to hiding evidence of cyber intrusions from each other are taking steps toward sharing information.

As the Washington Post reports:

For years, the U.S. government had treated hacking campaigns carried out by foreign governments as matters of national security that are classified. Officials were reluctant even to acknowledge a major intrusion by a foreign country either for diplomatic or intelligence reasons.

But as the scope and severity of the intrusions have grown, that has changed.

In 2014 the US indicted 5 Chinese PLA members for economic spying online against the US. The US government has even arrested Chinese citizens caught travelling on Pacific islands like Guam and Saipan for offenses like pirating. Into the seeming chaos of globalization, the long arm of justice reaches.