According to Microsoft, Russia has accounted for 58% of state-sponsored hacking over the past year – mostly targeting government agencies and think tanks in the United States, followed by Ukraine, Britain, and European NATO members. However, if you provide a service that would cause public disruption if it went offline, you could also be at risk of these cyberattacks.
But what is a state-sponsored hacking attack? What can you do to protect your business? And what are the goals of a state-sponsored cyberattack?
Continue reading to find out more about state-sponsored hacking attacks and what you can do to secure your business from these breaches.
State-Sponsored Hacking Attacks
When compared to traditional military operations, cyberattacks are much cheaper and easier to carry out. Furthermore, it is difficult to prove and the attacking state faces far fewer consequences if they are caught.
States that choose to carry out these attacks can employ hackers through their militaries and government agencies. But many choose to fund hacking agencies directly, providing plausible deniability of involvement if the attack is detected. As a result, any diplomatic repercussions that may arise if these attacks are discovered are minimized – further blurring the lines between criminal organizations and government groups.
Some reasons these groups or individuals conducting computer operations with the support of a nation-state might be:
- Using espionage to discover corporate secrets, new technology, or secret political information.
- Attacking critical infrastructure and companies in order to damage the defending country and diminish their capabilities to return fire.
- Spreading disinformation in order to disrupt political opinion within a state, affect national elections, spread resentment about certain groups or individuals, or even improve public opinion on supporting parties.
- Just to test the cyber-defensive capabilities and response time of adversaries of a nation-state.
Due to advances in modern technology, cyberattacks have become an essential part of hybrid warfare, which can involve conventional military operations, cyberattacks, misinformation, and support for local separatist groups. In fact, these tactics have been used recently by Russia against Ukraine.
Which businesses should be concerned about state-sponsored attacks?
Although most businesses don’t have to worry about being attacked by a hacker who is being supported by a state, if your business fulfills the criteria, you should take all of the necessary steps to ensure your business can’t be breached – if it hasn’t been breached already. If your business fits into one or more of these categories, you may be at risk of a state-sponsored hacking attack:
- Your business provides a service that would cause public disruption if it went offline. Examples may include gas, electric, water, telecoms, Internet, medicine, transport, waste management, or education.
- Your business holds active government contracts.
- Your business is a government or local council entity.
- You operate a highly profitable business
- You hold sensitive or classified information or intellectual property.
- IT downtime would have a drastic effect on your finances.
- Your business has offices in potentially volatile regions like Africa, the Middle East, Syria, Iran, Israel, or other regions.
What kind of threats do state-sponsored attacks pose to my business?
To put it simply, state-sponsored cyber attacks use existing methods of attack like malware, phishing, viruses, and other intrusive methods. However, instead of being carried out by a single individual or entity, these attacks are delivered from a military-scale operation.
On a positive note, the principles of cyber-defense still apply even when attacks are carried out on such a large scale. If you’ve already made efforts to secure your business operations, you now have an opportunity to scale up these operations in order to provide a good deal of safety.
However, it should be mentioned that state-sponsored attacks also have several unique aspects which leverage more advanced capabilities. For example:
- Surveillance, the most common type of attack, is nearly undetectable. This man-in-the-middle intel operation eavesdrops on unsuspecting victims. After infection, information is harvested by hackers from every email, file, or phone call that you make on infected hardware.
- Infecting and overloading any industrial systems that could cause infrastructural damage or injury to employees resulting in the destruction of economic output is another tool of state-sponsored hackers.
- Other attacks may be used to cripple or wipe out infrastructure for purely malicious reasons. For example, the CyberSnake malware provides attackers complete access to a network and the option to wipe all data from any systems connected to that network.
- One of the least common types of attacks that state-sponsored hackers carry out is espionage. These attacks usually involve stealing intellectual property for the gain of a nation-state. For example, back in 2018, China conducted a multi-year espionage campaign that involved stealing plans from various aviation companies in order to build a military aircraft.
How can I protect my business from state-sponsored cyber attacks?
Fundamentals – Although having the basics in place won’t provide much protection against full-blown state-sponsored attacks, they provide a fundamental level of cover which is negligent to be without. It’s recommended to be Cyber Essential certified at the very least unless you plan to undertake government contracts – for those you’d need Plus certification.
On the other hand, if you feel like you have a secure environment but want validation on the standard of your cybersecurity, we recommend getting a security audit.
Security Integration – Now that you’ve checked off the fundamentals, let’s look into integrating security into the everyday culture of your business. This involves adopting a mindset for constant improvement and practicing globally recognized security standards like ISO 27001.
Critical IT systems and Data Stores Isolation – Since most businesses are built around some of their most important IT assets, isolating critical resources isn’t as easy as cutting all connections to your critical IT assets. However, this is possible through intricate networking and configuration of rights management – and drastically improves your company’s resilience in the event of a cyberattack attempt.
Avoid High-Risk Tech – If you’ve yet to map out which hardware and software you have in your infrastructure, it’s important to do an audit – like the United States did when they banned Huawei’s cellular networking products in its critical infrastructure and government systems.
Collaborate with your industry – Sharing your cybersecurity practices with other companies in your industry is a great way to mitigate more potential vulnerabilities. Although depending on your business, sharing vulnerabilities and cyberattacks you’ve encountered against your IT systems could be too risky.
Secure your communications – It’s important to have at least one fully secure channel of communication whether it’s voice, data, text, or video. Apps like WhatsApp are far from business-grade software, as we’ve seen news stories asking billions of users to update their applications due to security vulnerabilities.
Securing means of communication is especially important for businesses with government contracts or locations in volatile regions since state monitoring is more prevalent.
Participate in hackathons
Hackathons are events usually hosted by a tech company or organization where programmers get together, typically over a 24-hour period, and collaborate on a project. These projects often involve building prototypes of software applications with the goal of improving cybersecurity.
This sprint-like event usually involves graphic designers, interface designers, product managers, project managers, domain experts, and other like-minded individuals who forge connections that could pay dividends in the future.
Some hackathons focus on a specific application type, while others focus on a specific programming language, API, or framework. There are also hackathons that work for a cause or purpose such as improving government operations like NASA and the United States Congress have done in the past.
Rentals for Hackathons
Choosing the right laptop or desktop for a hackathon event is imperative, as all of your participants will be required to have identical devices – and most will expect top-of-the-line equipment and peripherals.
Whether your event features traditional Windows machines, iMacs, or gaming desktops, selecting the latest tech for your event will ensure that your attendees are able to deliver their best performances and have them returning year after year.
Dell XPS and HP Omen gaming desktop rentals provide the high-speed performance that competition demands. With 64GB RAM, the latest Intel Core i7 processor, and graphic cards including NVIDIA GTX 1080TI with 11GB VRAM, these gaming desktops are an ideal solution for the demands of hacking competition.
The Acer Helios, Razer Blade 15, MSI Titan and Stealth gaming laptops are great options for portable performance as these machines all feature Intel Core i7 processors, dedicated graphics cards, and other powerful hardware that can support strenuous activities like hackathons.
Hackathons have serious internet and Wi-Fi needs. Your event location may not have the bandwidth to handle the demands of all of your desktops plus your audience’s smartphone Wi-Fi needs. Freedom WiFi Hotspot rentals are a great option because they are scalable to any number of users and feature a quick and easy setup for plug-and-play deployment.
Hackathons are a great opportunity for IT and coding enthusiasts to show off their skills while also allowing companies to test the security of their devices and software. It’s important that these hacking events use the latest software in order to test the true capabilities of their products.
A team of experts from Rentacomputer.com is here for product recommendations, delivery, set up, tear down, tech support and troubleshooting, and everything in between when it comes to setting up your hackathon. The latest technology from gaming laptops and desktops, to sound systems, video walls, and WiFi hotspots are all available for companies to rent for events around the world.
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