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State-Sanctioned Hackers & the Big Costs to Business

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013

State-sanctioned Chinese hackers have wreaked havoc on American governmental and university websites. But another victim in the ongoing cyber-wars is intellectual property and the private sector. According to Bloomberg, there are thousands of victims of cyber-spying and hacking that are teaming up with the National Security Agency to combat hackers through voluntary data sharing programs (unlike the notorious PRISM scandal). Companies ranging from the New York Times and Dow Chemical to Ford and the Wall Street Journal, have all been hacked, with origin points tracing back to China. In an official White House report, the Obama administration expressed concern over “an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China” and noted that “trade secret theft threatens American businesses, undermines national security, and places the security of the U.S. economy in jeopardy.” But instead of waiting for governments to resolve their irreconcilable differences, enterprises and businesses can proactively protect their data from state-sanctioned hackers by exclusively storing sensitive data on the private cloud. Because as White House senior cyber-security official, Michael Daniel, asserts, “This is a long-term problem, and it’s not something to be solved overnight either.”

Chinese Hacking Is On the Rise

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Through cyber-espionage, China has gathered intelligence on sensitive industries ranging from chemical manufacturing to satellite engineering. According to James Lewis, cyber-security specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “The scale of their economic espionage against all countries, not just the U.S., is overwhelming, so large that it’s creating instability in the world. They have to realize that this is not what normal countries do.” And China’s recent actions prove it. Through exploiting the recent NSA PRISM scandal in a phishing scam, the same Chinese hacking group behind the notorious NetTraveler attacks has unleashed a new scheme. Emails circulating with the subject line “CIA’s prism Watchlist” from “Jill Kelley” contain an attachment named “Monitored List1.doc”. Opening the attachment loads a spying tool that permits the hackers to seize data from your device. The email targeted the Regional Tibet Youth Congress, a Tibetan activist group based in India, which has been a source of frustration for the Chinese government.

Screenshot of the Phishing Scam

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For its part, Chinese officials deny any official connection behind the cyber-attacks. But a report by the security firm Mandiant and the fact that hackers traced to China rarely hack on weekends, suggests that such cyber-espionage is official government business. And the wave of hacking has only increased in the past few weeks. One recent attack campaign sourced in China exploits Dropbox to achieve its aims. Through the popular cloud-based sharing service, Chinese hackers disguised viruses as government papers. The hackers then invited targets via emails to access the files, an action which would ultimately result in downloaded malware. The hacking group behind the attacks, DNS Calc, modeled this campaign after similar successful attacks by another Chinese hacking group known as Comment Crew. Like in the case of the recent phishing scam exploiting common fears surrounding the NSA PRISM program, the targets in this case of hacking were also political, challenging official Chinese claims that such attacks are not state-sanctioned. In this instance, DNS Calc targeted the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Organizations Reporting Instances of Hacking

Image courtesy of computerweekly.com

Protect Yourself With the Private Cloud

Enterprises can’t afford to become collateral damage in the cyber-wars between China and the United States. Intellectual property theft and hacking can set companies back, halt production, and severely dip into profits. Instead of waiting around for a governmental solution that may never come, enterprises should seek out cloud services that offer user anonymity and strong encryption. That way, even in this case of a security breach, sensitive data would be protected.

For many enterprises, finding a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as many “secure” services on the market have security gaps that leave private corporate and consumer data wide open to third party attacks and even governmental spying, in the light of the ongoing NSA PRISM scandal. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart from the rest of the market is SpiderOak Blue. This service provides enterprises with fully private cloud storage and sync, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy. SpiderOak Blue is available with onsite deployment and private servers or outsourced deployment through a private and secured public cloud server.

SpiderOak protects sensitive enterprise data with 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. This way, even if programs like NSA’s PRISM continue to stand unchallenged, consumers can rest easy knowing that their data is truly protected and brands can gain diehard customer loyalty by publically securing consumer information. SpiderOak Blue’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for enterprises on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices.

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