Security Slideshow: Theft and Espionage Risk Rises Online

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 05-20-2010

Theft and Espionage Risk Rises Online

Motivations for attacks: stealing intellectual property/trade secrets, disrupting business and causing economic damage.

Theft and Espionage Risk Rises Online

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Increasingly diffuse and decentralized data storage and management - including use of mobile devices, USB sticks, cloud computing, and Wifi - create a growing opportunity to spy and steal.

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Cyber-spying is inexpensive and relatively easy to do. It's also low risk, because it's almost impossible to prove.

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Third party criminal gangs operating for a government or business entity often carry out attacks.

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Russia ran the first known cyber-spying operation in 1993. The People's Republic of China was in the game a decade later.

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Companies operating in China are particularly at risk. These include major corporations, law firms, public relations firms, trade organizations and others.

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In 2008, AP reported that Chinese hackers targeted a big New York law firm, attempting to steal key documents pertaining to a major international business deal.

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In 2009, the FBI issued a warning that hackers, particularly in China and Russia, were using phishing and other methods to gain entry into corporate systems and steal sensitive information.

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Hacking and intrusion capabilities typically revolve around planting Trojan Horses, botnets, rootkits, and other rogue software tools on targeted systems.

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March 2009: a spy network based in China is shown to have hacked computers in 103 countries; more than 1,300 computers at government and business sites were compromised.

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April 2010: Another spy network originating in China, dubbed Shadow, exposed; it aimed at computers in many countries, including systems operated by the Indian government.

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The Chinese hackers got documents about security in Indian states, info on India's relationship with Russia and African and Middle Eastern nations.

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China denied government involvement; compromised accounts on Yahoo! Mail, Twitter, Google Groups, and blog sites were traced back to Chengdu, China.

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January 2010: Google reported that it and 20 other large companies were subject to cyber spying by China-based groups. It later ended operations in China.

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Other countries suspected of political and economic espionage include: Russia, North Korea, Iran, Israel, France, the US and UK.

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The risk of cyber-warfare is growing. It could accompany a conventional attack or disrupt business and wreak economic havoc in a targeted country.

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Government sites and networks are most likely targets in a war; The Net, power grids, telecom networks, flight control systems, and financial networks are also at risk.

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