Cyber Espionage is Nothing New

Hacker stealing data from computer

Cyber espionage has been prominent in the headlines recently, with the Snowden affair in particular garnering much publicity. However, for anyone who has been tracking the growth of malware over the years, Snowden’s disclosure that security agencies use malware did not come as a surprise.

In 2007 Russia launched a massive cyber-attack against Estonia, and then in 2008, Russia pre-empted their military intervention in Georgia with massive DDoS attacks.

In 2008, Der Spiegel ran a report about the success of Germany’s electronic intelligence agency targeting the civilian phone system in Russia, and the communications of drug barons in Kosovo.

In 2009, researchers unearthed a large-scale cyber spying operation associated with an Advanced Persistent Threat attack originating from China, codenamed Ghostnet. It infiltrated over a hundred countries, targeting high-value political, economic and media locations, including embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices.

Then there is Operation Aurora from 2010 which targeted Google and many other companies to steal IP, Titan Rain from 2003 that possibly stole the designs for the F-35 fighter jet, Operation Shady RAT in 2011 that attacked hundreds of governments and companies globally (with special focus on defense contractors) and Operation Night Dragon in 2008 and 2009 that targeted the energy sectors in the US and Europe. In this case, every company that was exploited was in competition with Chinese companies for energy leases.

And lest we forget, the French are past masters at this. A report in the New York Times from July 2013 reported that “the General Directorate for External Security does the same kind of data collection as the American National Security Agency and the British GCHQ, but does so without clear legal authority. The system is run with “complete discretion, at the margins of legality and outside all serious control,” the newspaper said, describing it as “a-legal.”

However the French did say they draw a line “between data collection in the name of security and spying on allied nations and the European Union.” They didn’t clarify where the line was.

Then you have the minor regional stuff such as Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas, Syrian Electronic Army, etc. all hammering away at each other like there’s no tomorrow, using botnets, compromised web sites, DDoS and whatever they can lay their hands on to get at each other with no concept or care of the consequences for the rest of us.

Throw Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame, Uroburos, Careto, and however many other variants out there into the mix, and you can clearly see that revelations that the NSA was complicit in cyber-espionage is not exactly a ground breaking revelation.

What’s your take on governments’ use of cyber espionage? Leave a comment below.

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