Two reports of high-profile security breaches in the past few days have drawn attention to the fragile condition of network security at government level in different parts of the world. The target is not simply money, rather “stealing our futures” in the form of IP theft.
Current frameworks for network defence in many cases are inadequate. The reason is that they rely on methodologies incrementally developed over the past 20 years but which retain the core belief that software can provide robust security.
This is a fallacy, in my opinion, that will continue to be exposed through cyber-attacks on networks at every level, from government to corporate and onto every organisation. Instead, organisations need to adopt Trusted Computing standards that will deliver the most robust defences.
These begin in the endpoint device with the Trusted Computing Module, embedded in more than half a billion devices worldwide to the Self Encrypting Drives that protect data and the management frameworks that will cost-effectively ensure the best network security available.
Witness the damage from the two recent attacks. First, in Norway, data from the country’s oil and defence industries have been stolen and there are fears that this will prove to be of the most extensive data espionage cases in the country’s history.
Industrial secrets from unnamed companies and institutions were stolen and “sent out digitally from the country,” the Norwegian National Security Authority said. At least 10 different attacks, on oil, gas, energy and defence industries were discovered in the past year, but the agency said it has to assume the number is much higher because many victims have yet to realise that their computers have been hacked.
Yahoo News reported that this was the first time Norway had signalled such an extensive and widespread espionage attack and spokesman Kjetil Berg Veire said it was likely that more than one person was behind the attacks.
The methods varied, but in some cases individually crafted e-mails that, armed with viruses, would sweep recipients’ entire hard-drives for data and steal passwords, documents and confidential documents. The attacks often occurred when companies were negotiating large contracts, the agency said.
It added that that this type of data-theft was “cost-efficient” for foreign intelligence services and that “espionage over the Internet is cheap, provides good results and is low-risk.” Veire would not elaborate but said it was not clear who was behind the attacks.
At the same time, on the other side of the globe, it was reported that a Fujitsu computer system run by about 200 Japanese local governments was disabled by a series of cyber attacks and was in a vulnerable condition. The online system, which allows local residents to request official certificates and documents on the Internet, was paralysed twice on Wednesday afternoon, a Fujitsu spokesman said.