While official governments generally are smart enough not to directly employ attackers to carry out their missives, none of the researchers discovered smoking guns linking criminal operations to official governments.

Still, intermediaries typically contact “hackers for hire engaged with bodies potentially representing nation states,” McAfee’s Raj Samani says.

It’s only “logical for any nation state to leverage criminal hackers to carry out illicit deeds, as it further obfuscates the states from the crimes,” agreed Flashpoint’s David Shear.

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