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By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — Experts have long said that the Russians are the most sophisticated among the many nation-state adversaries that are regularly hacking government and private computers in the United States.

Now, a leading cyber security firm has found a way to quantify that.

In its latest threat report, CrowdStrike — the company that discovered that the Russians had hacked he Democratic National Committee — finds that Russian intelligence hackers are quicker and more nimble than the North Koreans, the Chinese, the Iranians and sophisticated criminals.

CrowdStrike measured what it calls "breakout time" — the speed at which a hacking group can break into a network and start stealing data. That speed is important because intrusions are being detected and stopped faster than ever before. The faster the hackers can smash and grab, the more data they can steal.

Click here to read CrowdStrike's 2019 Global Threat Report.

"It is quite remarkable to see that Russia-based threat actors are almost eight times as fast as their speediest competitor — North Korea-based adversaries, who themselves are almost twice as fast as intrusion groups from China," CrowdStrike says in the threat report.

Overall, hackers targeting the West upped their game in 2018, CrowdStrike found.

"In diplomatic channels and the media, several nation-states gave lip-service to curbing their clandestine cyber activities, but behind the scenes, they doubled down on their cyber espionage operations — combining those efforts with further forays into destructive attacks and financially motivated fraud," the report said.

CrowdStrike has previously said that China had resumed aggressive hacking to steal secrets from American firms, after a lull following an agreement with the Obama administration.