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Industrial Cyber-security

Nation-state Threat Actors

Patrick Berry
2 min readSep 25, 2022


When defining Cybersecurity Threat Actors it is common practise to include ‘Nation-states’. Recently when presenting on cybersecurity initiatives, I was questioned regarding the meaning of nation-state, which at the time I could not give a precise answer for.

After investigating the definition of Nation, State, and Nation-state; I am going to suggest that Nation-state is being used incorrectly in defining Threat Actors and that State is actually the intended meaning.


A Nation-state is defined as,

… a sovereign state of which most of the citizens or subjects are united also by factors which define a nation, such as language or common descent.

Source: Oxford Languages

Difference Between a Nation and a State

According to Britanica, the difference between a nation and a state is,

A nation is a group of people with a common language, history, culture, and (usually) geographic territory. A state is an association of people characterized by formal institutions of government, including laws; permanent territorial boundaries; and sovereignty (political independence). A state may comprise one or more nations (as did the Roman Empire and Austria-Hungary), and a nation may be represented in (or ruled by) one or more (usually contiguous) states, as in the early modern principalities of Germany. A state comprising or dominated by a single nation is often called a nation-state.

Nation-state Threat Actors

In terms of attacks against the US, the big four Nation-state Threat Actors are,

  • China
  • Russia
  • North Korea
  • Iran

From the definitions above, China and Russia cannot be classed as Nation-states due to their diversity of language and culture.

It should be noted that the definition of Nation-state Threat Actor is going to depend on your perspective as the United States (through the NSA and CIA) is very active.




Patrick Berry

Industrial Process Control, Operational Technology, Industry 4.0, Cybersecurity, Digital TX, AI, ML, Data Analytics