Russia. It’s name conjures images in your head of a vast, cold, and somewhat backwards nation. It’s also a name that has been in the news a lot over the past year. A nation that is seemingly years behind in technical skills and that cuts corners to keep things in working order but yet has been a major foe on the international stage in the past century and a boogeymen in this century. Did you know that Russians are involved in over one third of all cyber crimes that takes place? It seems that many of their citizens have an advanced knowledge of computers and are putting that to use, just not how many of us would like them to.

The average Russian citizen is certainly not a wealthy individual. The average per capita income is about $5,500 per year. Personal computers are nowhere near as common there so for many, especially those who have some sort of computer skills, the criminal underworld offers a chance to earn a decent living. Many of these Russians have been trained and employed by the government but like all governments there are budget restrictions and some employees have to be let go. Here in the U.S. they would join a private company and put their skills to work there or start their own company. In Russia they do not have that luxury.

With the average citizen making less money in a year than LeBron James does in a quarter of a basketball game a computer for them is a luxury they cannot afford. With few owning computers, there just is simply not enough work to go around so many Russians put their skills to use in other less scrupulous ways. They know how to hack into computer systems and how to steal whatever information is available online or to cause mayhem in poorly protected utility systems and banks all over the world. The government taught them how to do it and there is even evidence that many of these criminals are doing this at the request of or for the Russian government, certainly a scary proposition, and meaning that the government is actually retaining the best and brightest to work for them either directly or as contractors. Besides making a living one benefit is that if they choose to make trouble in the United States there is no extradition treaty that exists so they are safe from prosecution here.

The fact that many Russians are unhappy with their lives should come as no surprise. Quite frankly if you spent your day eating borscht and drinking vodka would you be? All stereotypical jokes aside, the weather in Moscow will never be mistaken for Miami, so if you are going to be stuck inside for a large portion of the year, you might as well develop some computer skills. You would have all the time in the world to join the ranks of the most sophisticated and inventive group in the world. In these times the tip of the spear is no longer a bullet or missile but it is someone sitting behind a computer screen typing on a keyboard. These people are Russia’s greatest weapon and it is something that we need to combat here.

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