Government sponsored hacking is still a problem

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F.Fifty percent of US technology executives believe government sponsored cyber warfare is the most dangerous threat to their business or organization. Nation-state actors, hackers hired by countries to attack others, are all too common, with nearly a dozen zero-day exploits in the first half of 2020 alone.

These exploits refer to cases where software developers learn about a vulnerability too late and have zero days to correct the problem before hackers exploit it. Doing so can cause them to damage or steal data from a vulnerable system.

Forms of government sponsored hacking

The associate professor at the Institute for Political Science, Dr. Benjamin Banta, identified three categories of cyberattacks: physical damage, espionage and sabotage.

Cyber ​​attacks with physical damage are the only one of the three categories that, if encountered, could be considered a full-fledged act of war.

“The best known [case of physical damage] is the US and Israeli use of Stuxnet to damage Iranian nuclear facilities, ”Banta explained.

Unlike the previous viruses, Stuxnet did physical harm to computers instead of simply stealing information digitally. By 2010, it had destroyed a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, infected 200,000 computers and physically destroyed 1,000 machines.

Espionage refers to the secret gathering of information. The act of data theft, also known as cyber espionage, costs between $ 25 billion and $ 100 billion annually in the United States alone.

Sabotage is a middle ground between the first two categories – in other words, an attack that damages a state’s infrastructure but does not necessarily harm human life. Still, an act of sabotage can be a sufficient catastrophe for a state.

The difficult thing about cyberwar is that it is difficult to determine which of these categories a particular attack falls into.

Dr. Jay Yang, Director of Global Outreach at the Global Cybersecurity Institute and Professor in the Department of Computer Engineering, gave insights into what is possibly the most common form of government-sponsored cyberattacks.

“There’s also hacking that doesn’t necessarily hack into computers in the sense that it’s more of a disinformation campaign on social media,” he said. “It influences the way we think, make decisions, or interpret facts.”

State-sponsored disinformation differs from propaganda in its main objective: to confuse the public with multiple messages rather than spreading a particular ideology. For example, the spearhead of massive disinformation campaigns attempting to change the narrative of COVID-19 in the United States has resulted in the country recording a largely disproportionate number of deaths relative to the world’s population. Campaigns like the one mentioned earlier can make disinformation much more dangerous than propaganda.

In addition to online disinformation, the most common targets of cyberattacks related to overseas states are the financial industries, utilities – power plants, electronic modding systems, etc. – higher education, health systems and supply chains that could ultimately lead to government agencies.

The gray area

The process of determining the motives for a cyber attack or whether it was actually government sponsored remains unclear.

“That’s the real benefit that cyberattacks … can give any state,” Banta said. “You can do it and at least hide your tracks for a while.”

In modern times, states that have improved their responses to cyberattacks, including the US, have improved their ability to identify hackers.

When deciding how to respond to a government sponsored cyber attack, the severity of the attacked country’s response should never be overlooked. Even if a cyber attack does not immediately cost human lives, the long-term damage cannot be estimated.

“Ones and zeros, bits and bytes are just as physical as anything else, and especially the damage they can cause can be just as physical,” Banta said.

“Ones and zeros, bits and bytes are just as physical as anything else, and especially the damage they can do can be just as physical.”

Identify ethical solutions

As companies and organizations decide how best to defend themselves against cyberattacks, it is not to be underestimated to participate in a proactive defense strategy and to observe early symptoms before an attack occurs.

“There are certainly technologies that are being researched … where machine learning is [is] used to predict what [an] Adversaries could do, and computing and network systems are changing to make it difficult [the] To penetrate opponents, ”said Yang.

While newer technologies are used to improve cybersecurity, it is also important to have guidelines in place that focus on safe standards of behavior.

“We must continue to emphasize hygiene practices for human cybersecurity, such as:

However, cybersecurity always comes with a risk, and unfortunately that comes with the territory.

“There is no such thing as a 100 percent cyber security system because they [foundation] the internet or the cyber world is to enable remote access, “said Yang.” If you want to enable remote access, you will have some flaws somewhere. “

“There is no such thing as a 100 percent cyber security system because they [foundation] of the Internet or the cyber world is to enable remote access. “

Certain defensive cyber operations have raised red flags in debates over ethics and legality in the computer security community.

“[The U.S. is] actually actively hacking into all kinds of actors out there who they suspect may have malicious intent against US companies or the state, ”Banta said.

While one country cannot do any harm, it could appear as a violation of the rights of another government and result in retaliation.

With the threat of government-sponsored hacking still looming around the world, it can take a long time to prevent further damage.

“I think we have to dig through for the next decade until the damage is enough that the powers that be – great powers like the United States and China – are ready to sit down and say, ‘Okay, let’s say some restrictions, ‘”Said Banta.

Until then, these types of cyberattacks will continue to wreak havoc at an alarming rate.

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