Cyberwarfare: Not Just for Anarchists Anymore!

Hack the Planet by von Shin Kurohoshi
Hack the Planet by von Shin Kurohoshi

For those deeply concerned about internet security and privacy, the year of 2013 certainly opened with a bang. First, there was the news that a cyberspy ring – apparently operating out of Russia – had been spying on embassies, governments and research institutions around the world for the past five years using a virus dubbed “Red October”. This was back in January, when the Moscow-based antivirus firm known as Kaspersky Lab announced the discovery of the international intrigue.

Then, on Jan. 30th, the New York Times announced that they too have been the target of hackers, this time from China. In a statement released by the newspaper, the company claimed that Chinese hackers have been persistently attacking their publication for the last four months, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.

Jin_jiaboaThe timing of the attacks coincided with a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings. The hackers tried to cloak the source of the attacks on The Times by first penetrating computers at United States universities and routing the attacks through them.

With the help of  Mandiant, the internet security company hired by The Times, they were able track the intruders, study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them. In the end, The Times reported that they had successfully expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in. However, the fact these hackers were able to infiltrate the network of a private news organization in the first place was much cause for worry.

Cyber-WarFor one, this is not the first time that hackers, originating in China, have used these sort of subterfuge tactics to hack US databases. According to experts at Mandiant, their company has tracked many such intrusions back to the Chinese mainland, all of which used the same approach of cloaking their efforts using US servers. In addition, this incident, which smacked of state-involvement, did not occurr in a vacuum.

Back in 2008, internet security experts indicated that Chinese hackers had begun targeting Western journalists as part of a wider campaign to identify and intimidate their sources and contacts, and to anticipate stories that might damage the reputations of Chinese leaders. The purpose behind this far-reaching and growing spy campaign aimed at corporations, government agencies, activist groups and media organizations inside the US seemed to be for the purpose of controlling China’s public image, domestically and abroad, as well as stealing trade secrets.

cyber-war-1024x843But of course, China is hardly alone in these sorts of covert cyber-warfare. As already mentioned, Russia has already shown signs of developing cyber weapons to assist in spying abroad, and there’s mounting evidence that Israel, Iran and the US are on board too. Starting in 2008, Iran’s main nuclear enrichment plant was hit by a sophisticated computer worm that caused damage to it, thus putting a crink in their efforts to become a nuclear power.

While no one took responsibility for this incident, the evidence seemed to indicate that the worm originated from sources within Israel and the US. Attacks which took place later on American banks and oil companies within the US were believed to have been caused by Iran, in retaliation for the worm that hurt their main source of enriched uranium and a key component in their nuclear program.

anonymous_flagFor some time now, hacking federal databases has become something of a sport for various groups and causes who are seeking to reveal government secrets and expose their inner workings to public scrutiny. The “Hacktivist” group known as Anonymous is a perfect example, a group closely linked to Assange (of Wikileaks) who’s most recent infiltration of the Federal Reserve Bank made the news earlier this month as well.

But as I’m sure all will agree, it’s one thing when private citizen attack domestic and foreign databases, and quite another when nations attack each others. While cyber criminals may constitute a vague and slippery enemy, one which is much harder to identify and prosecute, nation-states constitute a far more frightening one. Not only are their resources far more vast, the consequences of battling them are far greater.

Knowing who your enemy is, and that they have nuclear capabilities and the ability to strike at you physically… Yes, I think that’s a much scarier prospect! While the old ways of plausible deniability and covert action may apply, no one likes the idea of subtle attacks which could escalate into a full-scale conflict. Even if it is waged entirely by computer, the effects are still likely to be felt!

Source: NYTimes.com, money.cnn.com

17 thoughts on “Cyberwarfare: Not Just for Anarchists Anymore!

    1. Provided we incorporate neural implants, then hells yeah! Even targeted brain wave technology I could see. It would be pretty crude, but what better way is there to beat an enemy than to beam a wave into their soldiers brains and cause them all to have seizures or epileptic fits?

      1. Ugh, again with the Iranians? When are they and the North Koreans going to stop being the pariahs of the party? I’d rather plan for fighting aliens… or possibly a renewed Sino-Russian Alliance. That’d be cool!

      2. Speaking of aliens, I had a weird dream last night where one was in my room. it was one of those weird dreams where you’re half-asleep, you’re dreaming but you think you’re awake, you’re just having trouble moving, and your dreams mess with the reality you’re half in. the alien was right over my bed like it was seeing whether i was abduction-worthy, and there was this humming noise like a spaceship in a movie. i force open my eyes, i see a shadow move back, and the next thing i know, i’m trying to figure out whether what i just saw was some weird dream or if i seriously need to reevaluate my beliefs on extraterrestrials.

      3. I believe in a way there already are.. neuro nets, the google glasses, a number of different technologies taking cue’s from eye movement and our nerves, such as the new prosthetics the military is designing. I believe this takes implants, and recevies signals as the same nerves would in a fully functional arm. While this is not brain waves, the concept is the same. It’s just identifying the signal and cause/result of the signal. They are currently mapping the human brain but I had thought that was in the EU, I did not know the US was also that far.
        http://www.army.mil/article/73068/_Revolution_in_Prosthetics__reports_advancements__future_of_prosthetics/

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