State-sponsored hacking is back in the news, this time courtesy of accusations that Russia’s cyber maneuvers influenced the 2016 US election through the notorious DNC email leaks and a cyberattack against the Clinton campaign. Trump has repeatedly denied that Russian interference was a factor, to the point of loudly rejecting the CIA’s claims. He also wondered, on Twitter, where these claims were before the election (they were mentioned in the second Presidential debate and he publicly asked Russia to hack Clinton).
Additionally, Trump has stated that it’s impossible to figure out which flags hackers fly unless you catch them in the act, but the exact opposite is true. If you know what to look for and where to look, it’s very easy to guess who a hacker is working for. Proving it, though, is another matter.
This isn’t a new phenomenon: Currently, several Chinese generals (including well-known hacker/instant internet meme Wang Dong) on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for that crime, North Korea attacked Sony over its movie The Interview, and the United States government got in hot water itself for doing just that with PRISM. But how do we know the difference between state-sponsored hacking and kids screwing around?