Why state-sponsored cyber crime could be a threat to your business

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June 15, 2021

An increase in state-sponsored acts of cyber espionage has alarming implications for every business.

Not just because the victims are found across the corporate world – the notorious Russia-orchestrated SolarWinds attack compromised 18,000 companies as well as US government agencies – but because the hackers’ capabilities bleed into organised crime.

 JBS, the largest beef supplier in the world, recently revealed it paid ransomware hackers $11 million after they breached its computer networks and shut down meat plants across America and Australia for more than 24 hours.

The company was attacked by REvil, one of several Russian-speaking ransomware gangs that have made millions by hacking organisations, encrypting their files and demanding large payments in return for a decryptor key and a promise not to leak the files publicly.

Serious impact

The impact of these attacks is serious. Although US authorities have recovered most of the £3.1m ransom paid to a cyber-criminal gang responsible for bringing down the Colonial Pipeline, this pipe carries 45% of the East Coast's supply of diesel, petrol and jet fuel, and several days of disrupted supplies caused fuel shortages. The DarkSide hackers responsible are believed to operate from eastern Europe and possibly Russia.

Organised crime groups have developed lucrative business models around phishing and ransomware attacks – and these techniques are then incorporated into the standard hacker arsenal.

This means we should expect a rise in the volume and complexity of cyberattacks. The US has already admitted that hackers have the capability to shut down power grids, with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm adding: "I think that there are very malign actors who are trying even as we speak. There are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally. It's happening all the time.

Acts of war

 It is in this context that the Pentagon is working on plans to treat cyberattacks as acts of war.

In future, a US president could consider economic sanctions, cyber-retaliation or even a military strike if key US computer systems were attacked. The planning became a higher priority after a cyberattack on defence contractor Lockheed Martin in May.

Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan warned: “A response to a cyber incident or attack on the US would not necessarily be a cyber-response. All appropriate options would be on the table.”

This is taking us into dark territory, where governments could be effectively at war, secretly conducting cyber espionage against each other by sponsoring hackers to take down each other’s defence, energy and corporate sectors.

High collateral damage

We are reminded of the surreal world of the film Dr Strangelove and its nuclear Doomsday Machine, which spawned the dilemma: Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a secret! Why didn't you tell the world?”

What this means in the real world is that the collateral damage of these escapades is high impact and unpredictable. Every business needs to re-consider its cyber security, evaluate where the greatest risk lies and take action to counter it.

C2 Cyber’s proprietary COBRA platform helps you identify that risk and focus your limited resources on reducing it.

C2 Cyber are experts in cyber security. To protect your business from cyberattack, call us today on +44 (0) 20 7965 7597 or book an appointment

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