We’re often warned to use caution in our cybersecurity practices and procedures, which is a great idea regardless of where the possible threats could be coming from.
Individuals could be vulnerable to everyone from an amateur hacker in their hometown seeking unguarded passwords to more organized ransomware and phishing attacks. Businesses of all sizes are also learning that criminals aren’t just going after the bigger multi-state or multi-national companies and networks: small- or medium-sized businesses with weak defenses thinking they’re safe can be even more promising targets for breaches.
Security analysts also predict that while some cyberthreats are domestic, many come from other countries.
The very nature of the World Wide Web can make it easier for an individual in another country with the right equipment and know-how to launch an attack, but sometimes it can be done with not just knowledge but financial and resource support of other countries.
For instance, China has been pointed out as one country that routinely sponsors cyber-attacks on many other countries, including the U.S. The Center for Strategic and International Studies identified attacks by Chinese hackers against several nations in the last few years.
Sometimes these attacks introduced malware that disabled systems or made it easy for other hackers to access later. Sometimes corporate or financial data was taken. In some cases, other details like network logins and passwords were taken.
One attack on a major hotel chain was believed to be orchestrated by China, which included the theft of the financial information of every guest who ever stayed there and provided credit card numbers and addresses. CrowdStrike, which creates digital security products, identified China as the largest cyber threat as early as 2018.
Russia is seen as another regular offender that not only seems to sponsor hackers looking for information about businesses and infrastructure, financial data and intellectual property, but ways to disrupt or disable networks. Russian hackers are believed to have targeted not just manufacturers or financial firms but newspapers, government offices, political parties and the military.
The CSIS recently concluded that, with the exception of Japan and Australia, every other developed country has been the source of cyber attacks on other countries in the last 12 years.
North Korea is frequently blamed for organized hacking efforts against other countries, and Iran is also considered a growing threat for cyber attacks.
In fact, intelligence experts fear that Iran could likely begin retaliating against its perceived enemies by cyberattacks rather than physical attacks. This was demonstrated at the beginning of 2020 when tensions were high with the U.S. Along with missile attacks on a U.S. base, Iran also is believed to have launched an organized cyber attack.
More to come?
Many security experts warn that these attacks are going to get worse.
Wireless companies are planning to roll out a faster network called 5G throughout 2020. The promised faster speeds for data transfers are going to be exciting for many businesses and consumers. However, the service could potentially lead to new security threats.
Some of these will be physical, since the new service requires thousands of towers, which all could be vulnerable to physical hacking.
The network is also expected to lead to more connected devices, which also can be vulnerable to access, including from foreign hackers.
This ‘inter-connectedness’ can include all sorts of devices, from personal products like sensors in your shoe that measure your pace and relay to your smart watch, to scanners businesses can use to keep track of their inventory in a warehouse.
While it can be exciting that our homes are becoming more connected, such as being able to control the heat, lights, music from anywhere, it does create some vulnerabilities. For instance, the Amazon Ring, a popular device which allows people to monitor the door or other parts of the home from anywhere, has been hacked.
What to do
Security experts say awareness of vulnerabilities to foreign hacking is a good first step, which includes being aware of possible weak spots. Homes and businesses should understand and adopt safety procedures such as being able to recognize possible phishing attempts, installing protective software and creating strong passwords or other authentication methods.
They should also verify that any company they work with, such as vendors or data providers, also has strong security procedures in place.
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