The global impact of security breaches and IT meltdowns

Nation-state cybercrime is no longer a risk for specific businesses, it’s expanding with the scope of attacks hitting many other organisations

The term ‘cyber-attack’ can refer to a number of different situations, but fundamentally, it means an attempt by an individual or group to breach a computer system, network, or device with the intention to cause harm.

These attacks can target governments, businesses or individuals and may not always be large-scale or wide-ranging, however, they have become recurring. With so much of our daily activities now being online, cyber attacks unfortunately have the potential to disrupt everything.

It has been revealed in a report by The Independent, that a significant security threat to the UK, due to the government's failure to upgrade the outdated computer system in Whitehall, could potentially happen. The breach could result in the exposure of sensitive information such as bank account details and national insurance numbers being leaked.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has raised concerns about its "old and ageing systems’ prompting experts to warn that hackers could potentially access sensitive taxpayer data, or expose the UK to the risk of cyberattacks from Russian and Chinese hackers.

According to the report, Heather Self, a tax expert at advisory Blick Rothenberg, said HMRC holds information on names, addresses, dates of birth, unique taxpayer reference numbers and national insurance numbers, which were attractive to hackers who could sell it on.

Self says: “There’s a massive market out there for data like this, and that’s why it’s so important for not just HMRC but for every organisation to be super conscientious of their data security.”

What is a nation-state cyber attack?

Cyberattacks are based on opportunism, where hackers identify weaknesses in a computer system's defences and capitalise on them. This could, for example, involve discovering vulnerabilities in a website's code, which enables hackers to insert their code and bypass security or authentication measures. Or it may involve the installation of "malware," which is software explicitly crafted to harm a system, through a susceptible third-party site.

However, nation-state cybercrime is described by Microsoft as malicious cyberattacks that originate from a particular country and are an attempt to further that country’s interests. This topic is complex and just like any other field, it comes with its own specialised terminology.

Nation-state cybercrime no longer exclusively threatens specific sectors but has extended its reach. Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups are now targeting businesses that were previously considered safe from such threats, and this expansion puts every business in jeopardy as threat actors explore new avenues to access information, target entities, and generate profits.

What tactics do threat actors use?

Nation-state threat actors will use a wide array of methods to achieve their goals, but by examining nation-state cyberattack data can provide valuable insights into the cyber criminal's preferred tactics when targeting both public and private sector entities.

Some of the most widely used tactics include phishing attacks, which involve persuading the victim to take an action that fulfils the cybercriminal's goals, such as obtaining a password, often through deceptive email or website solicitations. Malware attacks are another common tactic, with malicious software created to damage or exploit programmable devices, services, or networks, including trojans, payment skimmers, viruses, and worms.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks render tech-dependent resources unavailable by flooding their servers with an excessive and unmanageable amount of web traffic, targeting a range of organisations such as banks, communication networks, media outlets, or any businesses relying on network resources.

Ransomware attacks are one of the favourite tools of nation-state cyber criminals, as this kind of malware is created to encrypt files, lock up devices, and steal data. Ransomware attacks are highly effective and can be used against any organisation.

Lastly, backdoor attacks, where threat actors will often infiltrate an organisation’s systems to create a backdoor, providing easy access to return in the future. Although it might remain dormant for extended periods, this backdoor grants cybercriminals the ability to discreetly monitor communications, copy data and find vulnerabilities that enable further attacks.

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Other magazines that may be of interest - Technology Magazine | AI Magazine.

Please also check out our upcoming event - Net Zero LIVE on 6 and 7 March 2024.  

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