As chief information officers consider all of the cybersecurity risks their companies may encounter, they could have a relatively narrow perspective of who would be likely to hack into their organizations’ systems. With major corporations such as Target experiencing cyberattacks, information technology professionals may only reflect on the financial motives contributing to these instances. However, in this age of globalization, it is important for CIOs to consider the possibility of hackers snatching confidential data as a means of helping governments throughout the world. In light of recent cases in which different governments around the globe have been hiring people to infiltrate datacenters and access sensitive information, IT executives may see just how pressing it is to protect their data.
The FBI may be linked to hacking
Thanks to the widely publicized Snowden scandal, it is no secret that the U.S. government has been keeping tabs on other countries by hacking into foreign databases and systems so that it could intercept messages or acquire information that would be of help. However, the NSA may not be the only federal office resorting to these tactics. According to The New York Times, it appears that an FBI informant has coordinated hack jobs into hundreds of websites to acquire foreign data, an endeavor that may be linked to the agency.
The news source reported that Xavier Monsegur, who was working as an informant for the FBI, managed to plan and lead a multitude of cyberattacks on foreign websites over the course of 2012. Among the websites affected were those associated with the governments of Iran, Brazil, Pakistan and Syria. At the moment, documents revealing these incidents, as well as the testimonies of the people involved in these endeavors, have not explicitly disclosed a link between the agency and these cyberattacks. That being said, the intelligence acquired from these endeavors – ranging from account information and financial stats – were uploaded to a server to which the FBI had access.
Casting doubt on the theory of a partnership between Monsegur and the FBI is the fact that the agency arrested the man for hacking. The New York Times explained that the court sessions have been kept confidential, but some documents hint that even though the FBI was not responsible or directly affiliated with these attacks, the bureau may have been keeping tabs on all the information Monsegur and his hacking group Anonymous was picking up. As agents were monitoring the Anonymous server, in an effort to build a case against Monsegur, they may also have been compiling information gleaned from these cybercriminals’ efforts.
China also dabbles in cyberespionage
It is safe to say that the U.S. government is not alone in being suspected of cyberspying. The Financial Review reported that the Chinese government is believed to be behind a 2011 cyberattack on the Australian parliament’s network. This Asian nation is reportedly responsible for tapping into the Aussie system and intercepting government officials’ emails over the course of a year. The content of these messages included information about ties throughout the international political community.
The news source explained that a variety of documents indicated this continuous cyberattack conducted by Chinese intelligence agencies, revealing that they were able to access the network as administrators, which gave them control of the system. As a result, the foreign hackers got their hands on thousands of emails belonging to Australian MPs and parliament staff members. The information monitored by Chinese officials is not highly confidential, as the messages were sent using their unclassified network. However, these routine and informal emails were used by the foreign government to piece together how different parliament employees were associated, in addition to the degree of their relationships.
On top of this, there were some more sensitive discussions held via this system. Emails were sent among PMs about their parties’ plans. Chinese intelligence officers were able to see developments and deliberations in terms of their parties’ interactions with lobbies and private companies. Not to mention, they could gain insight into the social associations, including private gossip, that allowed them to map out a clear picture of both internal and external connections held by Australian parliament members.
Due to these cyberespionage cases, along with others, chief information officers may see the importance of protecting everything from their websites to internal networks. Intelligence is just as much a driving factor as potential financial gains, and cyberattacks could come from a variety of sources so taking the proper precautions is key.