Deloitte has just released the Global Defense Outlook 2014. This independently developed report examines policies, practices, and trends affecting the defense ministries of 50 nations, and has been developed with publicly available information along with interviews with officials in government and industry, and analyses by Deloitte’s global network of defense professionals.
A section of the report is dedicated to Cyber Operations, and, as one of their publicly available data sources, Deloitte used data from my blog.
The structured analysis of the data confirms a trend: Cyber-operations are nowadays considered a national security threat across the globe.
- The global threat to computer systems and information networks is earning more attention and policy response from defense ministries worldwide.
- More than 60 percent of cyberattacks are directed against other Top 50 nations and that more than 20 percent of cyberattacks are directed against non-Top 50 nations. Developing economy status does not protect a nation against the prospect of a cyberattack.
- Among the higher-income nations in the Top 50, industrial targets account for one-half to two-thirds of cyberattacks, while among the lower-income nations in the Top 50, most cyberattacks are directed against government targets. This difference may reflect the relatively high level of security and defensive capability around government systems in higher-income nations and the availability of potentially lucrative industrial targets. The difference may also reflect the relatively higher number of state-owned enterprises in the lower-income nations.
- Cyber Operations are no longer the domain of higher-income Top 50 nations.
A really interesting reading, and not only for its implications in Cyber Space. The complete report can be found at this link.
Yet another Sunday, yet another attack in Middle East.
Maher Center, the Iranian Computer Emergency Response Team / Coordination Center has just released a scant report concerning another (alleged) cyber attack targeting Iran.
Few information is available so far regarding this new targeted attack. The malware, simple in design and hence apparently unrelated to the other sophisticated cyber attacks targeting the same area, seems to have an efficient design and wiping features. According to the statement, the malware “wipes files on different drives in various predefined times. Despite its simplicity in design, the malware is efficient and can wipe disk partitions and user profile directories without being recognized by anti-virus software“. However, it is not considered to be widely distributed. The report also publishes the MD5s of the five identitified components.
Wiper malware samples are becoming increasingly common in Middle East. Of course the most known example so far is the massive cyber attack targeting Saudi Aramco, occurred in August 2012 and targeting 30,000 internal workstations. Few days ago, the final results of the investigations were unveiled, suggesting that the attack was carried on by organized foreign hackers, and aimed “to stop pumping oil and gas to domestic and international markets” with huge impacts on the national economy of the kingdom.
The next hours will tell us if we are in front of a similar scenario, or the statement is rather an attempt of propaganda aimed to emphasize Iranian defensive capabilities.
What is a Cyber Weapon? At first glance this seems an immediate question to answer, but should anyone try to analyze the meaning of this term more deeply, probably he would be quite surprised and disappointed in discovering that the answer is not so immediate since an exact definition has not been given (at least so far).
A real paradox in the same days in which The Pentagon, following the Japanese Example, has unveiled its new strategy aimed to dramatically accelerate the development of new Cyber Weapons. And do not think these are isolated, fashion-driven examples (other nations are approaching the same strategy), but rather consider them real needs in the post-Stuxnet age, an age in which more and more government are moving their armies to the fifth domain of war [you will probably remember the (in)famous episode, when F-Secure was able to discover Chinese Government launching online attacks against unidentified U.S. Targets].
Recently Stefano Mele, a friend and a colleague of the Italian Security Professional Group, tried to give an answer to this question in his paper (so far only in Italian but it will be soon translated in English) where he analyzes Cyber Weapons from a legal and strategical perspective.
As he points out “Correctly defining the concept of Cyber Weapon, thus giving a definition also in law, is an urgent and unavoidable task, for being able to assess both the level of threat deriving from a cyber attack, and the consequent political and legal responsibilities attributable to those who performed it”. Maybe this phrase encloses the reason why a coherent definition has not been given so far: a cyber weapon is not only a technological concept, but rather hides behind it complex juridical implications.
Having this in mind, according to Stefano’s definition: a cyber weapon is:
A device or any set of computer instructions intended to unlawfully damage a system acting as a critical infrastructure, its information, the data or programs therein contained or thereto relevant, or even intended to facilitate the interruption, total or partial, or alteration of its operation.
The above definition implies that cyber weapons may span in theory a wide range of possibilities: from (D)DoS attacks (which typically have a low level of penetration since they target the “surface” of their targets), to “tailored” malware like Stuxnet, characterized by a high intrusiveness and a low rate of collateral damages.
One could probably argue whether a cyber weapon must necessarily generate physical damages or not, in which case, probably, Stuxnet, would be the one, so far, to encompass all the requirements. In any case, from my point of view, I believe the effects of a cyber weapon should be evaluated from its domain of relevance, the cyberspace, with the possibility to cross the virtual boundaries and extend to the real world (Stuxnet is a clear example of this, since it inflicted serious damages to Iranian Nuclear Plants, including large-scale accidents and loss of lifes).
With this idea in mind, I tried to build a model to classify the cyber weapons according to four parameters: Precision (that is the capability to target only the specific objective and reduce collateral damages), Intrusion (that is the level of penetration inside the target), Visibility (that is the capability to be undetected), and Easiness to Implement (a measure of the resource needed to develop the specific cyber weapon). The results, ranging from paintball pistols to smart bombs, are summarized in the above chart.
As you may notice, in these terms a DDoS attack is closer to a paintball pistol: the latter has a low level of penetration and the effects are more perceived than real (it shows the holder’s intention to harm the victim rather than constituting a real danger ), nevertheless it may be used to threaten someone, or worst to make a robbery. The same is true for a DDoS, it is often used to threaten the target, its action stops at the surface and usually the effects are more relevant in terms of reputation of the victims than in terms of damages done. Nevertheless, for the targets, it may lead to an interruption of service (albeit with no physical damages) and monetary losses.
On the opposite site there are specific “surgical” APTs: they have a high level of penetration with reduced collateral damages, they are able to go hidden for long time, but require huge investments to be developed, which ultimately make their adoption not so easy.
Of course, in between, there is a broad gray area, where the other Cyber Weapons reside depending on their positioning according to the four classification parameters identified… So, at the end what do you think? Do you agree with this classification?
Another week of Cyber War in the Middle East…
Another week in which pro Israeli hackers seem to have disappeared, and hence have apparently left the scene to Pro Palestine hackers, although not so many high-profile actions have been reported in this period. The only exception to this schema is represented by Mauritania Hacker Team who dumped 4000 login accounts from Microsoft Israel Dynamics CRM Online website. This action is particularly significant… Not because it targeted a Cloud service, and not even because it targeted a Microsoft Cloud Service, but most of all because on the wake of the multiple dumps performed by Pro Arab hackers against Israel (among which the dump to the Microsoft Cloud Service was only the latest), the Israel’s Justice Ministry has releases guidelines forbidding unnecessary collection of personal national identification numbers. This is the first time in which the aftermath of a Cyber War has direct implications on everyday life.
From this point of view the wars fought on the cyber domain are completely different from the wars fought on the real world… In the cyber battlefield the civilians are the primary targets (since they have their personal data dumped) and not collateral victims…
The second part of this post covers the cyber attacks carried on by Indian hackers against Bangladesh. Apparently their number is smaller but a deeper analysis shows a sharper strategy focused on paralyzing the financial system of Bangladesh.
In this first quarter of 2012, the cyber war between the two countries went through two different phases: until the beginning of March, the two opposite factions faced themselves with sparse defacement and DDoS actions (unchained after the attacks following the India Republic Day). After March we entered the Cyber War 2.0 characterized by High Profile actions, most of all suffered by Bangladesh, that led to the takedown of the Stock Exchange and one important Bank.
Again, thanks to Catherine for collecting the data.
Of course do not forget to follow @paulsparrows for the latest updates on the (too many) Cyber Wars, being fought on the underground of our planet.
Several days ago I tweeted a request of help to my tweeps for building a timeline of India and Bangladesh Cyber War Timeline.
Unexpectedly the day after I received a complete and detailed timeline from Catherine Anita. I was nearly risking to loose it since my Gmail account had marked the message as spam. As I do not completely trust the antispam engines and regularly check my Spam folder, fortunately I was able to retrieve her e-mail and the precious content.
Catherine did a complete review that I formatted according to my consolidated model, adding a couple of events for the last days.
Since the timeline of the mutual Cyber Attacks is quite long, I decided to divide it into two parts, the first one covering the cyber attacks carried on by pro-Bangladesh hacking crews against India (I used a rigorous alphabetical Order). Expect for tomorrow the update with attacks carried on from the other side.
As usual after the Jump you find all the references.
If you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated), and follow @pausparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.