The increasing number, range and sophistication of cyber attacks means that ever more complex and expensive defensive measures will have to be takenby Geoff Hoon / December 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
We have all seen any number of stories about governments using cyber warfare to pursue their political and economic objectives. We know that countries have developed sophisticated cyber systems to influence elections, steal secrets and even attack the film industry.
What is less well known is that the equipment and techniques previously only associated with governments are increasingly available and are today being used by organised criminals to profit from our increasing dependence on the internet in every aspect of our daily lives.
Once governments realised the potential of cyber warfare to damage their enemies, at a fraction of the cost of conventional weapons, they poured significant resources into recruitment, training and the development of materials and techniques aimed at disrupting and degrading computer networks. They recruited “bedroom hackers” and provided them with undreamed of resources, developed original new software and used their control of computer manufacturing to produce rogue hardware.
Almost every spy story turns on the theft of secret government information. The theft of computer information might target highly sophisticated defence plans or the details of critical national infrastructure. The same process in the hands of criminals might reveal the passwords that open up our bank accounts.
Both situations result from the abuse of credentials; someone gaining access to a computer system by appearing to have the necessary authority. The same programme that might make a spy look like a trusted insider can be used to make a criminal look like us when accessing our bank accounts.
In the past, it was only governments that had the time and resources to develop and execute sophisticated targeted attacks. This involves detailed preparation and planning, probably by a large team with a range of diverse skills; and not only computer skills. The cyber attackers begin with a specific target in mind—in the past perhaps the Pentagon or the MOD—and first of all spend time working out what they need to know to gain access. This might involve a general list of names and email addresses or insider information on likely vulnerabilities.
With the relevant information, the project is then passed to a specialist team charged with gaining access to the network and infecting it with malicious software.…