The ever changing threats
First computer virus was invented back in the 80’s; it distributed itself via diskettes and was harmless. Not before long, during the 90’s, a large number of computer malwares were distributing themselves over the early Internet, damaging PCs and stealing confidential data, yet the motivation behind it was mainly self esteem and a job of a single person. Hacking was a hobby; it was about having fun and bragging to the buddies. During the last ten years efficient solutions were found, software based Anti-malwares such as Antivirus, Firewall and Antispyware block most of such attacks.
Times have changed, malware attacks are no longer a hobby, it is a profession and a growing business called cyber-crime. Today, cyber-crime turns billions of dollars in profits annually. Hackers team up by the tens, each specializing in a particular field, they are well trained, funded and organized, it is no longer about fun and bragging to the buddies, it is about profit and secrecy is the key. Malware they design is not general, it targets specific network with a specific goal, such sophisticated malware usually passes through software based Anti-malware solutions undetected. [New York Times: "11 Charged in Theft of 41 Million Card Numbers"] (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/06/business/06theft.html)
Yet, with the current shift of targets, malware sophistication and the funding behind it tuned another notch. Not long ago, an e-mail addressed to Booz Allen Hamilton executive, supposedly from Pentagon, turned out to be a brilliant fake. Lurking beneath it was an insidious piece of malware known as "Poison Ivy" designed to suck sensitive data out of the $4 billion consulting firm's network. The Pentagon hadn't sent the email at all, its origin is unknown, yet the authors knew enough about the arms deal discussed to craft an email unlikely to arouse suspicion. [BusinessWeek: “The new E-spionage Threat”] (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_16/b4080032218430.htm)
The U.S. government and its sprawl of defense contractors have been the victims of an unprecedented rash of similar cyber attacks. Government agencies reported 12,986 cyber security incidents during 2007, triple the number from two years earlier. Incursions on the military's networks were up 55% last year. Private targets like Booz Allen are just as vulnerable and pose just as much potential security risk. "They have our information on their networks. They're building our weapon systems. You wouldn't want that in enemy hands," says General Croom, head of the Pentagon's JTF for Global Network Operations. "They are not denying, disrupting, or destroying operations yet. But that doesn't mean they don't have the capability."
Over the past two years malware attacks targeted networks of Defense, State, Energy, Commerce, Health & Human Services, Agriculture, Treasury departments; and defense contractors Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. When the deluge began in 2006, officials scurried to come up with software "patches". The effort got serious last summer when top military brass discreetly summoned chief executives from 20 largest U.S. defense contractors to the Pentagon for a "threat briefing" and U.S. government has launched an operation to detect, track, and disarm intrusions on the government's most critical networks.
Worries about Internet based attacks spread last year to Germany, France, and Britain. British domestic intelligence agency MI5 had seen enough evidence of intrusion and theft of corporate secrets by allegedly state-sponsored Chinese hackers that the agency's director general, Jonathan Evans, sent an unusual letter of warning to 300 corporations.
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