How the Russian-Chinese Power Dynamic Has Shifted in the Cyber Underground

Naomi Yusupov, a Chinese Threat Intelligence Analyst, and Delilah Schwartz, a Product Marketing Manager at Cybersixgill, delve into their report analyzing Russian and Chinese cybercriminal communities.

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It’s been almost three months since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the world is still shaken by these disastrous events. And while most countries have imposed sanctions on Russia, China is one of the few leading countries that hasn’t imposed any sanctions.

But what’s happening between Russia and China in the cyber underground?

In this episode of the Dr. Dark Web podcast, our host Chris Roberts welcomes Naomi Yusupov, a Chinese Threat Intelligence Analyst, and Delilah Schwartz, a Product Marketing Manager at Cybersixgill. They dive deep into Naomi’s and Delilah’s recent eye-opening report, called The Bear and the Dragon, which analyzes Russian and Chinese cybercriminal communities.

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Key Insights

The power dynamic between Russia and China has shifted in the cyber underground. The Russia-Ukraine war has spilled into the cybercriminal underground, which is now playing a major role in this conflict. So what is the power dynamic between Russia and China? Delilah says, “The power dynamic between the two sides has shifted. Russia is now more dependent on China than China is on Russia, both economically because of all the sanctions imposed on Russia, as well as for political clout. Whereas [in the case of] China, it’s helpful for them to have the Russian alliance, but they still need to maintain Chinese interests at a larger scale. So it’s been really interesting to see how those dynamics are the same in the cybercriminal world.”

The battle is no longer just the physical battle between states. Wars are definitely not won on battlefields anymore. The battle now takes place in multiple dimensions, one of them being the cyber underground. Delilah explains, “There are multiple dimensions of warfare now. There’s the media battle, which is arguably just as important, the war of public opinion, and also the war in cyberspace. Cyberspace has now permeated every aspect of human life. Our daily experience is dependent on the good functioning of cyber infrastructures, whether it’s our energy sources, the bloody traffic lights that we drive through in the morning, our ability to access clean water and energy, and all those sorts of things.”

Highly advanced threat actors from Russia are reaching out to the less advanced threat actors from China. One of the major discoveries that Naomi and Delilah made is that advanced Russian threat actors are trying to collaborate with less advanced Chinese threat actors. Naomi says, “We do see it on the Russian side, they’re highly advanced. They are very motivated by money and wealth, and this is where it’s been strange for us — very surprisingly, we see this highly advanced Russian side wanting to collaborate with the Chinese side, which is not as advanced in hacking skills. They are learning, and they have those barriers to even getting the information, new tools, and new hacking methods, but when they get their hands on them, they’re teaching their whole community about them.”

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