Russia has blown it. With massive wealth from oil and gas, a well educated population and a fledgling democracy they could have done great things to become a modern, wealthy, vibrant society. Instead we have a highly corrupt Putin dictatorship with a small “robber baron” elite who are immensely wealthy whilst the bulk of the population suffer in grueling poverty with a low life expectancy. The KGB control the government, the press, the military and the business community. Putin has absolute power.
Now Russia has imperial ambitions and has its eye on the 14 neighbour countries that were once in the Soviet Union. And they are cutting off gas supplies and sending in the tanks to project their power and influence. At the same time, and this is potentially even more serious, they now engage in cyber war with anyone who annoys them. Attacking the computers and interweb of a country in a massive and coordinated way that makes much normal functioning become impossible.
The first time this happened was in Estonia in 2007. The government there was taking down an old soviet era statue and the Russians didn’t like this. So they tried to grind Estonia to a halt in a massive month long cyber war. This was the first time that one country has attacked another in cyberspace.
The second time was a year later, in 2008 when Russia wanted to impose its will on Georgia. They instigated a massive co-ordinated online attack of the Georgian internet infrastructure (as well as sending in the tanks). Once again using cyberspace as a weapon against someone they didn’t like. The New York Times article on the Georgia cyberwar has this quote from an expert: “You could fund an entire cyberwarfare campaign for the cost of replacing a tank tread, so you would be foolish not to.”
So twice in two years Russia has gone to cyber war to exert its power. From this we can take it that abusing the internet in this way is Russian policy. Which means that they are preparing to use the internet and computers against other people in future, just as they would with any other weapon. So every piece of software coming out of Russia must be suspect, and that includes games. In fact games are the most suspect because they are the most widely distributed and they are so physically big that it is easy to embed malicious bots that could be activated the next time Russia has a cyber war. And these days gaming consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 are connected to the internet so could just as easily be used as internet weapons.
It is a pity that Putin is so stupid. At a time when he could and should be making life better for the millions of Russians he represents he is, instead, making things worse for them (and the population of neighbouring countries) with his megalomania.