Monday, October 22, 2007

What's Russian for 'Payback'?

Why no blog posts lately, you ask? Wasn't this supposed to be sort of a regular thing, like a running compendium of my thoughts on the Internet and/or history??? Well. Yes. But you see, I was building suspense. writing anything.

Until now.

But why now?

Well, I am just going to answer that question with another question, discovered via an article in today's New York Times, sent to me by my ever-attentive roommate. (Hi, roommate!) The question: What's Russian for 'Hacker'?

(Picture found through a Google Image Search for "Russian Hacker." I like that the image is titled "evil Russian hacker." Although I assume he's just posing, since he looks pretty innocent to me. Via eurobsd.)

My favorite part about this article—besides, you know, its absolutely stellar reporting on the deepseated hacking industry in the former USSR—is that it never even answers the question! How DO you say "hacker" in Russian? Brace yourself, for I am about to reveal all...

(I'd like to point out that I am, once again, building suspense.)

The Russian word for "hacker" is....
Actually, if we're going to be precise, it's хакер. But just pronounce the "h" with a little bit of throat-clearing, and it's basically the same.

Although I'm aware that it was just a rhetorical question, I think that the presence of this Americanism in the Russian language is indicative of some of the deeper dynamics that create this hacking culture in Russia. For me, the most interesting part of this article was its attention to Russia's anti-Western attitude, its soreness over the status of the U.S. as internet epicenter. The most revealing moment came at the end of the article, and really accesses an undercurrent of anti-U.S. technological resentment, that, frankly, threatens to bubble up and become a much bigger deal than the credit-card scams and phishing outfits that it already spawns.

On a Livejournal Russian forum last week, The New York Times asked participants why Russians have a reputation for Internet crime.

“I don’t see in this a big tragedy,” said a respondent who used the name Lightwatch. “Western countries played not the smallest role in the fall of the Soviet Union. But the Russians have a very amusing feature — they are able to get up from their knees, under any conditions or under any circumstances.”

As for the West? “You are getting what you deserve.”

Ultimately, these hackers "inhabit such a robust netherworld that Internet-security firms in places like Silicon Valley have had to acquire an expertise in Russian hacking culture half a world away."

Evidently, "payback" in Russia means fishing not just for credit card numbers, but for attention. And, maybe, revenge.


Michael said...

It's amazing how similar these attidutes are to those of Muslim extremeists. Essentially, "America is bad, and we can therefore justify whatever harm we think of."

Ammutbite said...

Dear Diana.

The "reputation for cybercrime" ascribed to my former compatriots is a first and foremost a matter of successful effort to create yummy memetic bait for "openminded" Americans. is a better place to learn why "hacktivism" is our nation's boogeyman.
Actual "black hat" hacking and financial scams are activities of the same percentile fractions of Russians as other countries of the world.
What IS widespread is resistance to corporate marketing profit margins, illogical opposition rules of fair use, and campaign contribution justified enforcement of copyright for software and media in the West.
The high quality of technical training, and lack of indoctrination has made Russia one of the unique places where the "anti-copyright" (aka "file sharing")movement has popular support.
Unlike China, Russia has not prevented its population for interacting w/the world at large through the Internet. It would be horrific to see this plague of noncompliance and not-for-profit activism spread to nations where the executive and legislative powers are bought and paid for.

Luckily, sentiments of gullible consumers w/Harvard credentials are easily manipulated. The RIAA and the like should thank you for your work, continued knee-jerk responses to crude black PR.