Wednesday 20 June 2018

Anyone, anywhere is now a viable target for the nation state hackers

Stock picture
Stock picture

Ronan Murphy

Recent cyber attacks, including the attempted raid on the Musgrave Group, indicate that the global rules have changed.

IT managers are not just dealing with criminal gangs using sophisticated programmes and 'Botnet' networks to steal financial information, they are also facing the reality that nation states like North Korea now consider anyone to be a fair target through mass ransomware campaigns like WannaCry and Petya.

The rules have changed for nation state hacking - anyone, anywhere, anytime is now a viable target.

While there is no suggestion the most recent Irish cyber attack is nation-state related, never has the importance of network security and IT defences been so apparent.

The systems of private companies and state agencies are now constantly being probed for signs of weakness by overseas criminal gangs and even nation states.

As the US and North Korea beat the drums of nuclear war, both countries have already been actively engaged on the cyber battlefield.

US officials confirmed to the 'Washington Post' that the US president had signed a directive outlining a strategy of pressure against North Korea that involved military cyber capabilities. For weeks now the US Cyber Command has been launching denial of service attacks on North Korean internet access, crippling servers and paralysing digital armies and spy agencies. Just as the US strategy appeared to be working, Russia came to the rescue of Pyongyang by providing a new internet connection, allowing the country to carry on with its orchestrated global cyber attacks.

But why is cyber crime so important to North Korea?

As the UN enforces the latest raft of sanctions, it is proving more difficult for North Korea to get its hands on cold, hard cash. The North Koreans have been stealing tens of millions of dollars, a kind of digital profiteering more common among organised criminals than government spies.

Over the years they've launched distributed denial of service attacks on targets in the US and South Korea. They conducted a cyberheist on Bangladesh's central bank netting more than $80m (€68m).

The prize for the North Korean cyber machine is Bitcoin. This crypto currency has been a lifeline to North Korea.

If network managers thought they had only criminal gangs to worry about, they had better think again.

Dublin Information Sec 2017, Ireland’s cyber security conference, addresses the critically important issues that threaten businesses in the information age. For more on INM’s Dublin InfoSec 2017 conference, go to: independent.ie/infosec

Irish Independent

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