The Cyberwar Rages 24/7

Corporations’ cyber security under widespread attack, survey finds

Around the world, corporations’ computer networks and control systems are under “repeated cyberattack, often from high-level adversaries like foreign nation-states,” according to a new global survey of information technology executives.

The attacks include run-of-the-mill viruses and other “malware” that routinely strike corporate defenses, but also actions by “high-level” adversaries such as “organized crime, terrorists, or nation states,” a first-time global survey by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington has found. More than half of the 600 IT managers surveyed, who operate critical infrastructure in 14 countries, reported that their systems have been hit by such “high-level” attacks, the survey concludes.

A large majority, 59 percent, said they believed that foreign governments or their affiliates had already been involved in such attacks or in efforts to infiltrate important infrastructure – such as refineries, electric utilities, and banks – in their countries.

Such attacks, the survey said, include sophisticated denial-of-service attacks, in which an attacker tries to so overwhelm a corporate network with requests that the network grinds to a halt.

But they also include efforts to infiltrate a company. Fifty-four percent of the IT executives said their companies’ networks had been targets of stealth attacks in which infiltration was the intent. In two-thirds of those cases, the IT managers surveyed said company operations had been harmed.

The IT managers also believed that these “stealthy” attacks were conducted by “nation states” targeting their proprietary data, says the survey’s main author, CSIS fellow Stewart Baker, in a phone interview. Mr. Baker is a cybersecurity expert formerly with the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency.

“It’s all the same kind of stuff – spear-phishing, malware, taking over the network and downloading-whatever-you-want kind of attack,” he says. “Over half of these executives believe they’ve been attacked with the kind of sophistication you’d expect from a nation state.”

The CSIS report describes such attacks as “stealthy infiltration” of a company’s networks by “a high-level adversary” akin to a “GhostNet,” or large spy ring featuring “individualized malware attacks that enabled hackers to infiltrate, control and download large amounts of data from computer networks.” The GhostNet attacks, which Canadian researchers attributed to Chinese state-run agencies, bear similarities to recent attacks on Google and other high-tech companies, Baker says. Google attributed attacks on it to entities in China.

Read the report:
In the Crossfire: Critical Infrastructure in the Age of Cyber War

See also:
In the Crossfire: Critical Infrastructure in the Age of Cyber War
Report: Critical Infrastructures Under Constant Cyberattack Globally
Utilities, Refineries and Banks Are Victims of Cyber Attacks, Report Says
Critical Infrastructure under Siege from Cyber Attacks
Critical Infrastructure Vulnerable To Attack
Critical Infrastructure Security a Mixed Bag, Report Finds
Report shows cyberattacks rampant; execs concerned
Key infrastructure often cyberattack target: survey
Critical infrastructure execs fear China
SCADA system, critical infrastructure security lacking, survey finds

Ironically, the more dependent we become on interconnected network technology, the more vulnerable we become too.

/so keep your fingers crossed and your computers patched against hacking and intrusion, at least you can do your part to avoid being part of the problem

Hacking The Hackers

Vast spy system loots computers in 103 countries

A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London, and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information.

The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected.

This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep–in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets–and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The FBI declined to comment on the operation.

See also:
Canadian researchers uncover vast computer spying operation
China-based spies target computers across globe
Massive Chinese computer espionage network uncovered
GhostNet: Turning Computers into Giant Bugs
International Phishing Operation – GhostNet
Researchers: Cyber spies break into govt computers
Munk Centre for International Studies
Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network
Ronald J. Deibert
Nart Villeneuve
Rafal Rohozinski
Spear Phishing and Whaling Attacks Reach Record Levels

/yesh, I’m sure the Chinese government has absolutely nothing do do with this