In today’s globally connected environment, nations and organizations are facing a bigger threat named Cyber Espionage. It is an organized and deliberate cyber attack to gain unauthorized access to classified material for military or political gain. Such types of intrusions are done to shut down governments or military operations to create chaos at the global level or as an act of terrorism. The frustrating part of this is that the cybercriminals are so well trained that they don’t leave a trace behind and it becomes difficult to ensure that the classified information is secured. In the case of increasing business competition, even small businesses have to consider the options for preventing cyber espionage.
History of Cyber Espionage
Cyber Espionage has widespread all across the globe and has become much more sophisticated with time. Let us see some of the cases of Cyber Espionage that have affected governments, companies in the recent past:
- In January 2019, US intelligence reported that China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia are some of the nations which are indulged in cyber espionage activities and can critically damage the US infrastructure. The report from US Intelligence stated that the Iranian hackers wanted to gain intelligence and prepare themselves for future cyber operations.
- In February 2019, the website of Pakistan’s Ministry of External Affairs was hacked due to which the visitors from Australia, Holland and other countries were facing issues while opening it. Pakistan alleged India for this, which laid down the very foundation of the Pulwama Attack on 14th February, 2019
- APT32 a malicious hacker group and an attribute of the Vietnamese Government stole a transcript of a phone conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Philippines counterpart Rodrigo Duterte, from Philippine Government Surveillance.
Cyber Espionage – Targeting Methods
Cyber Espionage involves loss of classified and sensitive data using Advance Persistent threats to crawl through government, military and other public sector networks without being getting noticed. Other than government or public sector agencies speaking in terms of private-sector cyber spying makes company information, information related to stakeholders and marketing information more vulnerable to getting into the wrong hands.
In the early days, sending faux employees to gain access to data or projects on new technologies was in trend, but today anyone with a workstation and USB stick can upload a Trojan horse or virus in order gain upper hand over the business plans of the competitors. Cybercriminals forward e-mails with links to individuals who have a highly connected professional network tempting them to download the code which makes them vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Preventing Cyber Espionage
Cyber espionage has no longer been restricted to financial or government institutions, it has deepened its roots in telecommunication industry, companies, hotels etc. The motive of stealing information has changed to damaging the reputation and entire structure of an organization. In case of government and military operations, such cyber-espionage attacks can even result in terrorist attacks endangering the lives of innocent. There are many ways to prevent such attacks, but there is no guarantee that all the attacks would be eliminated. As the saying goes “ Prevention is better than cure”, let’s see some of the preventive measures that can be taken in order to avoid cyber espionage attacks:
- Defining security policies and assessing the existing one’s enables organizations to be vulnerable against cyber attacks. The organizations should also strive to have a proactive response plan in case such an attack is detected.
- Security measures such as backups and updates should be followed up and audited on a regular basis.
- Knowledge is very important in today’s digital era, organizations should educate and train their employees about security policies that minimizes the acts of cyber espionage. Best practices should be followed such as changing passwords at regular intervals, keeping classified information secured and using approved antivirus and malware protection.
As cyber espionage deepens its roots in today’s globally connected environment, cybersecurity increases and evolves and the need for automation tools and techniques will become an integral part of an organization’s cyber-espionage policies. Organizations should employ automation tools to correlate data, generate policies faster than attacks and implement strategies at a quicker pace to minimize the risk of cyber espionage.
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