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Cyber Espionage and Remedies (Extracts)

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Keerthana R Chelluri NV,

Symbiosis Law School Hyderabad

Cyber espionage is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous threats to exist in today’s society. Young, potentially vulnerable minds are susceptible to attack, and frequently don’t know they are being attacked until it is too late. Hackers pose as people, tricking others into divulging personal information that can be used against them; corporations act like viruses attacking other entities; employees act like viruses acquiring confidential information for their own benefit.Cyber espionage is all too common today, and legislation needs to be enacted to provide adequate punishment for the perpetrators. In this report, I intend to raise awareness on a critical issue of cyber espionage around the globe. Cyber espionage has been a serious problem for the overall cybersecurity globally. A synchronized approach is required to counter this issue. To better protect ourselves, we should remain aware of the latest news stories and the newest security protocols to prevent cyber-attacks. The core reason behind carrying out this research is to explain the concept of cyber espionage in detail which can help us in finding ways to protect data that is stored online in this technology driven society. The research has discussed the motives behind cyber-crime suggesting ways to overcome it. It also explains how information be it personal or of companies can be leaked because of these reasons. Furthermore, because an effective preventative technique is primarily focused on psychological acts in various crimes, understanding the psychology behind such acts would provide a safe space for a reduction in the number of instances.

The author came to the conclusion that the majority of the time, it is the companies, inside sources that leak crucial information due to minor internal conflicts. The human mind is the most important variable in the research due to various mental states, although financial motivation, economic situation, pop culture's effect, and other advantages are also important. Understanding the tendencies of human brains in comparable circumstances that are motivation driven. It was also difficult to develop a pattern in terms of reasons because human psychology is so different.

Despite being an incredibly common tool now, cyber espionage was actually the very first case of hackers breaking into computers for profiteering purposes, long before the internet even existed. But why now? And how is it different from the “hacking” that happens on a daily basis online? To understand, we have to take a look back into history.

The first documented case[1] of cyber espionage pre-dates the web itself. In 1986, Clifford Stoll, who at the time was managing computers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, noticed strange activity in computing time records. This eventually led him to a hacker who appeared to be systematically targeting computers at military bases around the U.S. looking for military secrets[2]. He eventually created a trap for the attacker, luring him in with a cache of fake information. The hacker fell for the bait and was Markus Hess, a West German who was selling stolen information to the KGB. The current rampant cyber-espionage is probably no surprise to those following the 1984 science fiction film “Ghostbusters” [3]where paranormal phenomenon wreak havoc on New York. The available evidence suggests that the first overt indications of cyber espionage go back as far as 2001 and that both activity, and activity levels, appear to have increased significantly since then. The case of Clifford Stoll is interesting because it predates the actual web. The idea of e-commerce really just started to take off in 1995 when eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar, who later created PayPal (it was originally called “Auction Web”). These were the early days of online business and in today’s world, it can be difficult to imagine a time when people discussed in plain sight what they were selling. Ultimately, these discussions reveal much about the beginnings of e-commerce (and how different the technology was then), but they also reveal that past spies may well have used similar methods to try and secure secrets. The years between 2001 and 2010 turned out to be an extremely turbulent period in the world of cyber espionage. Many of the major long-standing groups—groups which continue to operate today—first came onto the radar, publicly at least, during this period. Unsurprisingly, all of them would go on to play an ongoing role in global cyber espionage operations.

Cyber-attack and cyber espionage both exist and are increasing. The potential impact of cyber espionage on every nation is very high. There are more than 60 countries working on the cyber-attack and causing harm to other states. Unfortunately, we can’t detect who is doing it! We only need to improve our ability to combat such attacks as more and more advanced attack methods [4]will come up in next few years. Currently, the major threat to national security primarily comes nations who have the resources and the willingness to conduct cyber espionage, and they see their citizens as assets in such an enterprise. With more than 1.3 billion citizens, China has the ability to build a huge army of online soldiers by recruiting highly skilled hackers. It also has sufficient resources to pay these individuals; thus, creating a highly motivated and capable force for exploitation.

Cyber espionage is really nothing new. Government agencies have long used computers to spy on other countries by breaking into computer networks, and individuals have long used computers to steal information for personal gain. But the interconnected nature of the internet makes it all the easier for both agencies and individuals to do this. Many users are unaware that one of the downsides of using technology is that, by using technology, they are unwittingly allowing their data to be captured by others. Russia, with a population of 143 million, lacks the manpower compared with its rival China; however, it has numerous well-trained programmers and digital engineers who can be employed in cyber espionage and other related activities. The list of government leaders who are suspected of engaging in cyber espionage has continued to grow. The US government has been implicated, accused, or caught conducting acts of cyber espionage against other countries on multiple occasions. The truth is that cyber espionage is something that governments are expected to protect their citizens from. As the young hacker told us, “I never knew what I was doing was wrong until I started researching it.”

So perhaps the greatest threat to the integrity of the security of our identities does not rest with the hackers themselves, but with our own governments. So, does all of this mean that we're destined to see another cyber-attack like we saw with the recent Sony Pictures hack? Most likely? No. Cyber security measures have certainly become more rigorous since the 80s and 90s[5], and if anything, cyber-attacks are on the rise. But there's no reason to fear them either. We all can play a part in ensuring our data is protected by taking the time to learn about the new trends and tools used by today's black-hat hackers and doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our data. The more we learn about their attacks and how to prevent them, the better we'll fare in this constantly evolving battle against cybersecurity threats. The global Level of Cyber Espionage is growing at a staggering rate, with at least twenty-five different international groups now operating. It is likely that the only thing that has kept the number of these groups to this relatively small number has been the intense competition amongst them, with each group presumably spending considerable resources monitoring the activities of its rivals. This is where things started to get complicated. Moonlight Maze[6] had exposed another shadowy group, but it seemed that another group was operating right under everyone’s nose, penetrating political councils and intelligence agencies only to remain undetected for years. What would this mean for the future of cyber espionage? Did this mean that there were many more undetected groups operating at the time, or could it be even worse? It’s now becoming apparent that the development of these cyber espionage groups started much earlier than previously thought. Whether the level of activity was less at this time due to the lack of publicly available information, or is simply an indication that these groups were not as active during this period, will likely never be known.

The paper studied the world of cyber espionage, which is an act of stealing the information & data of rival entities in order to gain profit. As it can be seen, various motives have been found for this crime to take place. Security companies are working hard to provide solutions so that none of this happens. The good news is that most cybercrime can be prevented through meticulous security measures. Most large companies have dedicated security divisions that are specially trained to watch for signs of cyber spying, and to provide protection against it, in their clients' companies or in government agencies. At the same time, every business needs to protect themselves by educating their employees and doing their own monitoring and security audits. Fortunately, there are many great programs and tools available to help small and big businesses in this effort. Protecting your company is crucial, but all it takes is one external or internal threat to compromise your information. As the number of cyber-attacks target individuals, companies are being tasked to manage all types of digital assets. When it comes to safeguarding your business assets on the go, nothing beats having a remote access app for corporate data. Luckily there are lots of apps out there.

As a corporate/company, you'll know who might desire your most valuable information once you've determined who might want it. You'll notice holes in your own defenses once you know feasible threats and prospective attack paths.

Risk assessment is critical to a risk-based security approach, which should be a cornerstone of any organization's security strategy. You should also come up with an event reaction strategy. It will aid you in responding in the event of a data breach and minimizing the damage on your organization. All security regulations should be established in a security policy that is clearly documented. This policy should include regulations preventing word sharing and allowing employees to use their own devices to figure, among other things. Check sure everyone on your team is aware of it, starting with upper management. By default, many businesses provide access to critical information and infrastructure. This policy isn't secure, despite the fact that it should be more convenient. Unless absolutely essential, your organization should adopt the principle of least privilege and demand access to any or all knowledge. Applying the dubious "need to know" approach suggests that you only give access to employees who have a genuine need for information. If unauthorized workers are frequently forced to work for a tip, they will recognize that they are working under the supervision of licensed personnel. By restricting the number of people who have access to critical information, you may significantly reduce the chances of your rivals gaining this information.

Create a secure perimeter around your business's network. The first layer of protection is normal enterprise cybersecurity code, such as firewalls and antivirus programmers. Separate your valuable information from your company's network and restrict access to it. Set up screen subnets and guard your border routers. The strongest potential defense against industrial and economic surveillance through hacking and malware is a secure perimeter with a layered approach. Coaching your employees is the greatest way to prevent them from unintentionally assisting the enemy. Inform them of any possible hazards to your firm. Make your employees aware of their responsibility in the security of your company. Teach students how to apply simple security measures in their daily lives. This can help protect your employees from social engineering and prevent common security blunders like using default passwords. The time unit department may undertake a background check before hiring someone. This lowers the chances of discovering a traitor in your organization. These tests should be repeated once in a while, especially for employees with privileged access, to ensure that they do not become spies. A sudden rise in living standards, unexpected trips, or debt reduction might all be causes for anxiety. In a number of situations, corporation surveillance is carried out during the last few weeks of labor.

Employees' credentials are generally kept active after termination so that they may continue to access sensitive information for harmful purposes. Create and implement a proper termination policy to protect your organization from any corporate espionage by former employees. It's also important to keep a watch on privileged users, such as system directors and upper management. They'll just acquire information while acting out their usual activities and rationalize any unexpected conduct as a mistake. Employee observing makes all workers' behaviors completely transparent, allowing you to spot knowledge theft and take action quickly. You'll utilize the records for your inquiry if something unexpected happens. Furthermore, because timeserving employees are aware that their activities are being recorded, observation personnel will dissuade them from stealing knowledge.


[1] Wangen, Gaute. "The role of malware in reported cyber espionage: a review of the impact and mechanism." Information 6.2 (2015) : 183-211. [2] Weisbord, David. "Cyber-conflict, Cyber-crime, and Cyber-espionage." Minn. J. Int'l L. 22 (2013): 347. [3] Deibert, Ronald J., et al. "Tracking ghostnet: Investigating a cyber espionage network." (2009). [4] Lewis, James A., and Stewart Baker. "The economic impact of cybercrime and cyber espionage." (2013). [5] Skinner, Christina Parajon. "An international law response to economic cyber espionage." Conn. L. Rev. 46 (2013): 1165. [6] Banks, William C. "Cyber espionage and electronic surveillance: Beyond the media coverage." Emory LJ 66 (2016): 513.

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To be continued...

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