Information is new oil today. Having current information in hand is found to be advantageous and gives an upper hand in the world of business and also amongst different countries in the world. Computers taking the center stage of our work environment from education to artillery, all kinds of information are stored in them. So, what is espionage? Let’s take a look at what is the definition of espionage concerning computers here.
Cyber espionage is stealing data from corporate houses and governments. The process runs unnoticed in a subtle manner wherein the cybercriminal gets hold of the classified information. This unauthorized access of the user by running a process unnoticed in the background of a personal laptop/workstation or mainframe is known as cyber espionage.
Cyber espionage aims to get hold of the confidential information of governments and corporate houses. These cyber-attacks are motivated by the need to be on top of knowledge of what is happening in the other government’s yard or it can be a terrorist act. The result of confidential data theft by cyber spying can result in loss of advantage over the competitor, material loss, or loss of life.
Following are two cyber espionage examples found in recent years.
In the year 2009, there were steady attacks on Google to collect the information of the Gmail accounts. These attacks were code-named ‘Aurora’ by McAfee Labs. The accounts were those of human rights activists belonging to China. Google was not the sole target. As soon as Google noticed this issue, the other 20 companies were duly informed. Adobe and Yahoo were also in the 20 attacked. The cyber-attackers were targeting these companies with a vulnerability found in Internet explorer. Required preventive measures were taken.
In the year 2009, Canada Cyber specialists updated about a huge spy network known as GhostNet. The Ghostnet had penetrated to more than 1000 computers in 103 countries. The attacks were also made on embassies of Germany, India, Iran, Thailand, South Korea, and Pakistan.
This kind of cyber espionage is happening even today. Cybercriminals are always on the hunt for vulnerabilities to design new espionage techniques to attach. Governments and Corporations are under constant threat of attacks. To detect and to prevent these vulnerabilities to be attacked by cybercriminals is of high importance to skilled security professionals. They use a variety of techniques to safeguard the information from cyberspies.
Cyber spying or cyber espionage can expose the company’s secrets which can be personal and private information. The attack can be so severe that it can bring down the company by damaging the reputation of the company. Cyber spying on governments will be to acquire military intelligence information. This information can be that of the location of the army units at the borders, the artillery present, and also other sensitive information concerning the countries. On getting hold of the information, cybercriminals can use it to their advantage. The result could be the loss of lives.
Normally the targets for cyber spying are:
The stolen information in this category is inclusive of data in the research, development, operations, and remuneration packages of the employees.
The information stolen in this category is valuable information under research such as top-secret projects, plans, and formulas belonging to organizations. The stolen data can be sold by the spy to make personal gain.
The information of the client and customer details, services rendered and remuneration packages offered fall under this category of stolen data.
Organizations set long and short-term goals for their growth in the market. These goals and strategic planning to achieve goals are highly guarded company secrets. The information stolen by the competitors gives an edge over in the market to plan and grow ahead.
Losing data is a huge concern but losing a reputation can ruin the corporation. In the case of cyber espionage, the corporation is not only at risk of financial and credibility loss but also from clients and shareholders who are very much a part of the corporation.
Corporations dealing with customers need to protect their data at any cost. The data breach by an attack can ensure the corporation loses its credibility of being trustworthy. This will put customers on the back foot with questions rising over the security policies adopted and followed within the corporation. This does not end here. It might result in legal proceedings against the corporates by distraught customers. The damage to the corporation’s reputation is hard to repair.
Computers are man-made. The software used by us is bound to have vulnerabilities. There is no 100% security available to safeguard corporates and governments from cyber espionage. The prime concern for the organizations and governments right now is to be up to date with the security policy and procedures. To evaluate the risks on regular basis and have a security policy ready in hand to counter any kind of vulnerability that may arise unexpectedly. Many corporations run daily security procedures and have a ready response plan in hand to follow as soon as an attack is revealed.
Regular timely backups, security updates, and software and hardware updates are a must to be followed. These procedures run are well recorded, confirmed, and audited for further compliance procedures. These procedures include managing mobile devices too.
Cybersecurity professionals work with the IT department to have multi-layered security firewalls for protection. The firewalls are built considering the virtual environments at the workplace. These virtual environments and cloud software which are widely used everywhere are also bound to be attacked by malware and viruses.
Cyber spying or Cyber espionage is a fact of very existence today. Corporations and Governments take multiple steps to be safe from cyber espionage attacks. The employees in the corporation are educated about security and its prime importance. They are made well aware to keep confidential information secure. Knowledge of malware and viruses is of importance as they are used to conduct data breaches by cybercriminals.
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