Warfare has entered a new era, which is no longer Physical but Digital. As per the Economist, Cyberspace is the fifth domain of warfare after land, sea, air and space. When compared to traditional military operations, cyberattacks are very inexpensive. Furthermore, they are generally easier to carry out. They afford the comfort of anonymity and operating across borders, typically from outside the legal jurisdiction of a country.The impact of COVID-19 has accelerated this digitally escalating conflict.
What are state-sponsored cyberattacks?
State-sponsored cyberattacks refer to invasive action by a nation on another nation’s technological infrastructure with the intentional exploitation, causing damage or disruption. The objectives behind such attacks are either political, commercial, or military interests of their own country..
State-sponsored cyberattacks are one of the biggest cyber threats in this digital decade. Malicious use of information and communication technologies (ICT) has the potential to disrupt critical financial services for both national and international economic systems, undermine security and confidence, and negatively affect financial stability. The frequency and intensity of these attacks are on the increase. A newly released study sponsored by HP Inc reveals that there has been a 100% rise in nation-state attacks between 2017-2020.
A major concern for organizations!
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, 80 percent of companies are concerned about being victims of a state-sponsored cyberattack. Recently state-sponsored cyberattacks have transformed cyberspace. Organizations advocate for increased international political cooperation to combat these threats.
State-sponsored cyberattacks have the potential to cause significant and wide-ranging harm across several critical areas. Despite the vulnerabilities posed by these attacks, the offenders frequently walk free due to the difficulty in tracing the source of cyber-attacks. Their goals are to remain persistent in maintaining control over communications or access to sensitive data.
The State-sponsored attacks involve spying to discover secrets of the organizations that can damage and diminish their defensive capabilities; it can also spread wrong information about an organization and sometimes only to check how well the adversary is prepared. It combines various hostile actions used to achieve goals. Conventional military operations, cyberattacks, misinformation, and support for local separatist groups are examples of hybrid warfare.
What are the reasons behind State-sponsored attacks?
The nation-states have various reasons to execute cyberattacks:
A cyberattack can cripple critical state infrastructures and private companies, directly impacting the economy and financial stability. According to the SOFF report, one out of every five enterprises in Europe and the United States recognizes state-sponsored cyber-economic spying as the most severe threat to their operations. Indeed, the Council on Foreign Relations compiled a list of 288 state-sponsored cyberattacks, nearly half of which targeted private entities.
Theft like corporate secrets, technologies, undisclosed political information, etc., are very dangerous for organizations. Recently, it has been observed that countries like Iran and North Korea are sponsoring cybertheft hacks to mitigate the damage caused by economic sanctions.
Our lives are becoming entirely relevant on online networks, resulting in more digital attacks or threats to disrupt or create obstruction in bringing down critical infrastructures and other essential services. The state-sponsored attacks in recent years are considered to have the most disruptive impact. Covid-19 raises the stakes even higher, as nation-state adversaries increasingly target vaccine manufacturers for corporate sabotage and theft.
Cyber-attacks have added an entirely new dimension to countries’ venerable practice of stealing military secrets and other sensitive information from one another. The ubiquitousness of the Internet has opened up new opportunities for undercover activities and theft of intellectual property. Examples of espionage cyberattacks include the theft of plans and design secrets for advanced US military aircraft such as the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II by Chinese Red Army hackers.
Protective measures to undertake:
As the cyberattack grows, it becomes vital to take preventive action against such threats. A major emphasis should be placed on reducing attacks as they occur and developing resilient systems with robust backups that can be recovered quickly from serious cyberattacks from a tactical perspective. Several actionable steps you can take to increase your security are:
– Organizations must have protection in both strategic and technical ways.
– They need to be more cautious and well-equipped.
– Adapt automated defenses or hire enough security engineers to fight cyberattacks in real-time.
– It is essential to deploy an updated machine learning system in the security management solutions to immediately analyze and differentiate between the normal and abnormal traffic and block the threat.
– Having Web-Application-Firewall protection is equally relevant. It is vital to ensure that portal software and the rest of the software on your organization are up to date and well patched.
– In addition to these preventive measures, imparting training about phishing scams, DDoS attacks, etc., to employees is an essential part of protection, especially during the pandemic period.
State-sponsored attacks raise a more profound concern about the adequacy of existing plans and capabilities for defending the critical infrastructure. Such cyberattacks are a silent threat and can have far-reaching and long-term consequences on our society. It is pivotal to instigate a fundamental shift in the proactive and collaborative actions from government, industry, and other key stakeholders to protect our economy.