The Iranian Cyber Army (ICA) has announced its intention to sell access to its botnets, which have been responsible for attacks on social networks like Twitter and the Chinese equivalent of Google, Baidu.

At the same time, Dutch authorities have disrupted a Bredolab botnet (one of the pieces of malware that the ICA sells) and shut down 143 servers hosted in the country, which were associated with a pay-per-install operation. The rise of these ‘hacker shops’ represent a new level of threat for governments and businesses.

The Iranian Cyber Army’s decision to sell its botnets is evidence of a more co-ordinated effort than ever before by the hacking community to execute targeted attacks. Whilst this is certainly not the first case of malicious code being sold online, with the rise of highly complex attacks like Stuxnet and Zeus the online hacker shops of old seem like child’s play when compared to this new wave of collaborative cyber warfare.

Cyber criminals are no longer just intent on stealing personal details for a quick cash hit or on sending inconvenient spam emails. They have much bigger prizes in mind, and are creating mechanisms dedicated at corporate espionage and attacking against real-world infrastructures, such as power stations. These attacks are more targeted, more sophisticated, and more potent.

The National Security Strategy’s £500 million injection of cash to bolster cyber security efforts is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. But it is not just about the money. As cyber criminal techniques evolve daily, the mindset needs to switch from the approach of old, which focuses on only preventing the known bad, to preventing anything entering the network unless it is known to be good. Only by applying this level of intelligence, can we be confident that our windows are locked tight and our valuable assets safe.