Russia and Cybercrime on its Own Ground

The internet and information and communication technologies are now the cornerstones of infrastructure development, leading to enormous technical developments today. Around the world, both developed and developing nations are moving toward digitizing their operations. According to Valeriano and Maness (2015), countries are incorporating computer technology into their government functions, banking services, transportation infrastructure, and power supply. However, new and significant challenges have emerged in tandem with the advancements, expansion, and development of the digital world. Cybercrime, as defined by Richards (2012), is an illicit activity that preys on the safety of installed computer systems as well as the data processed and stored in them. Russia is one of the countries where a significant portion of harm has been caused by Russian organized criminals such as the Russian Mafia and the Russian Business Network (RBN). These illegal operations have caused harm to computers and computer networks located in other countries. Therefore, their threats can be regarded as trans-boundary and Russia has an obligation to exercise due diligence in redressing, prosecuting, protecting, and preventing cyber-crime within its borders.

History of Cybercrime Organizations in Russia

The technological advancements have provided an efficient channel that the private and government organizations utilize to facilitate delivery of a wide range of services. The services ranges from basic to the very advanced level of delivery. The use of technology has greatly improved and streamlined the rate and efficiency of service delivery among various organizations. Private companies and government organizations tend to store very sensitive data by use of technology, a trend that attracts hackers who intends to access the confidential information. Once the wrong persons access highly confidential material, they use the obtained information to blackmail the company by asking for large amount money. The importance of the information and the services provided through the information systems have made cyber-crime an extremely profitable and professional industry. According to Russell (2014), Russia hosts the largest number of hackers in the world who in 2013 was able to make up to $1.9 billion dollars. Russell (2014) adds that neighbouring Russian-speaking nations such as Ukraine have also contributed to the rising number of cyber-crime cases that are today operated like corporate enterprises. A significant number of the cases have been associated with Russian organized groups Russian Business Network and Russian Mafia.

The Mafia organization has been able to engage in crimes without fear as they are able to control both the police and the judicial departments of the country. The Mafia manipulate these departments through bribery and bringing prosecutions in order to sabotage business competitors (Maitra, 2015). In recent years, the Mafia has shifted into cyber-crime as it has proved to be a more profitable enterprise. The new tactics and methods adopted by the Russian organized crime are complex and they are seen to be the safe operation grounds for these groups. On the other hand, the RBN another Russian organized crime organization has also been engaged in a number of cyber-crime cases. These are some of the known cybercrime operators. However, there could be many other hackers in Russia who operate undercover.

Difficulties in Proving Russia Was Directly Responsible or Complicit In Trans-Boundary Cyber-Attacks

Governments and other justice systems around the globe are trying to end the cases of cyber-attacks. The authorities in the different nations are expected to prevent trans-boundary cyber-crime. However, the Russian government has faced criticism from several platforms as they are accused of being directly involved in the trans-boundary attacks on other nations and their computer systems. Russia in a number of trans-boundary cyber-attacks such as attacks on Estonia, a neighbouring country, have been held accountable for this attack after it emerged that the criminals used the government infrastructure and servers to store their tools. In addition, the attacks on Estonia computer systems were discovered to emerge from an IP address that was owned by the Russian government (Boyte, 2017).

The Russian government has denied the accusations of its involvement in such trans-boundary attacks and also any complicity. There are difficulties in proving Russia was directly responsible as there only exist a limited evidence. Furthermore, Shen (2016) writes that the International Court of Justice has set standards that are difficult to prove against a country such as Russia where a wide range of cyber-attacks have been attributed to taking place. The currently available evidence of complicity between the Russian government and the Russian organized criminals and cyber-attackers are unlikely to prove the liability of Russia in its direct attribution or complicit in any trans-boundary cyber-attacks. Gathering adequate evidence to show that Russia has been involved in any kind of cyber-attacks becomes a very hard process. The courts have made it very clear that a given level of evidence is needed before ruling that a party was involved or has committed a cyber-crime. Moreover, there are many other risks involved in conducting the investigations such kidnapping and death since the attackers can do anything possible to remain anonymous.

International Laws

States have a responsibility to prevent and monitor trans-boundary damage. The states have to prevent, protect, prosecute, and redress any cyber crime cases within its borders. The conduct by the citizens of a nation is considered to be a trans-boundary damage when the activity is performed by a human when the activity is undertaken within the boundaries of a state, the act causes harm, and finally, the harmful act impacts the citizens or things within the boundaries of another state. The International Laws were set up to prevent such trans-boundary damages. However, the laws do not place strict accountability upon a state for harm caused by it, its citizens, and their conduct to another state. The International Law helps prevent trans-boundary damage from within the borders of a state through states being held responsible for the negligent conduct.

According to Gonzalez (2015), the laws require a state to practice due diligence that helps stop and prevent its citizens and other people living within its boundaries from committing trans-boundary damage. In the International Law, states are mandated to ensure that they prevent the use of their resources and territory to cause any damage to another territory and/or the citizens and people of the other state. Gonzalez (2015) states that the laws have prevented trans-boundary harm through the application of the due diligence requirement in the duties of a state.

Russia Compliance in International Treaties/Conventions

There exist international agreements, treaties, and conventions that states are expected to be signatories to ensure their compliance and solidifying their responsibility to protect, prevent, prosecute, and redress organized cybercrime. To show its compliance with international treaties, Russia is a signatory to a number of the treaties such as the United Nations Convention in 2004. This agreement was signed in a move to end transnational organized crime by coming up with effective and appropriate laws that illegalize criminal activities undertaken by organized groups. In addition, to activities of the organized crime groups, corruption and bribery were criminalized and signatories were mandated to adopt legislations that promote integrity.

In another international convention, the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, Russia declined to take part and was never a signatory. The state is against certain provisions in the convention which it holds that are against its sovereignty. Russia can be regarded to be uncompliant with these international conventions as it is not ready to work with other states to solve the numerous trans-boundary cyber-attacks whose source is in Russia. However, Russia still remains compliant with international treaties/conventions with it being a signatory to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The state is required to work towards the eradication of organized crime such as cyber-crime.

Russia’s Efforts in Combating Cybercrime

Russia has made efforts in combating cybercrime by making several proposals such as those that govern the internet conduct of its citizens whenever a behavior undermines the economic, political, and the social system of another state. The state has made efforts to stop corrupt police forces and officials in the criminal justice system and to end money laundering which is the most common money transfer system for the organized crime groups that are involved in cybercrime. In other efforts to combat cybercrime, the country has worked in collaboration with other nations through transnational cooperation to combat cyber-crime. Russia helped in the arrest of one of the Russian Mafia Member Viacheslav Ivankov. Russia has made other efforts by working with organizations such as Group-IB that has helped to apprehend cyber-criminals, prevent cyber-crime, and prosecute the criminals of cyber-attacks (Valeriano & Maness, 2015). However, despite these current efforts, the country has not achieved what is expected in its efforts in combating cybercrime especially considering Russia’s technological abilities.


Organized criminal organizations working in Russia such as RBN and the Russian Mafia have caused threats to other states around the world. Russia has an obligation to the international community to prevent, protect, prosecute, and redress cyber crimes within its territories that are caused by the organized criminal groups. Russia is clearly making efforts in combating cybercrime by organizing investigations towards improving cyber-security. In addition, several proposals have been presented and the Russian government is coming up with legislations that when passed and implemented will meet the country’s obligations towards due diligence. Finally, Russia has the obligation to the international community to prevent, protect, prosecute, and redress all cyber-crime cases within its borders.


I recommend that the Russian government should partner with the local organizations, businesses, and local governments in coming up with appropriate and effective ways to combat cyber-crime within its borders. The government also needs to come up with training workshops for its citizens. The training programs should focus on improving the technological knowledge of the citizens regarding cybercrimes and how they can ensure cyber-security. It is also important to train a special class of investigative officers with exceptional skills in information technology so that they can efficiently carry out their operations. The hackers are extremely sharp and advanced technologically hence the investigative authorities should do everything possible to match or even outdo them in both knowledge and equipment.


Boyte, K. J. (April 01, 2017). A Comparative Analysis of the Cyber-attacks against Estonia, the United States, and Ukraine: Exemplifying the Evolution of Internet-Supported Warfare. International Journal of Cyber Warfare and Terrorism, 7, 2, 54-69.

Gonzalez, M. D. (October 01, 2015). International Perspectives of Cyber Warfare. International Journal of Cyber Warfare and Terrorism, 5, 4, 59-68.

Maitra, A. K. (March 01, 2015). Offensive cyber-weapons: technical, legal, and strategic aspects. Environment Systems and Decisions: Formerly the Environmentalist, 35, 1, 169-182.

Richards, J. (2012). A guide to national security: Threats, responses, and strategies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Russell, A. L. (2014). Cyber blockades. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Shen, Y. (March 01, 2016). Cyber Sovereignty and the Governance of Global Cyberspace. Chinese Political Science Review, 1, 1, 81-93.

Valeriano, B., & Maness, R. C. (2015). Cyberwar versus cyber realities: Cyberconflict in the international system. New York: Oxford University Press.

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