The Danger (1.1)
In this section, you will learn some common war stories in the cybersecurity arena as well as some of the major threat actors and threat impacts.
War Stories (1.1.1)
In this topic, you will learn about three types of victims in cybercrime: individuals, organizations, and nations.
Hijacked People (220.127.116.11)
Sarah stopped by her favorite coffee shop to grab her afternoon drink. She placed her order, paid the clerk, and waited while the baristas worked furiously to fulfill the backup of orders. Sarah pulled out her phone, opened the wireless client, and connected to what she assumed was the coffee shop’s free wireless network.
However, sitting in a corner of the store, a hacker had just set up an open “rogue” wireless hotspot posing as the coffee shop’s wireless network. When Sarah logged onto her bank’s website, the hacker hijacked her session, and gained access to her bank accounts.
View the following video posted in 2008 to see a demonstration of how one wireless network was vulnerable to hacking:
In this course, you will learn about security technologies that easily prevent this type of attack.
Ransomed Companies (18.104.22.168)
Rashid, an employee in the finance department of a major, publicly held corporation, receives an email from his CEO with an attached PDF. The PDF is about the company’s third-quarter earnings. Rashid does not remember his department creating the PDF. His curiosity is peaked, so he opens the attachment.
The same scenario plays out across the organization as dozens of other employees are successfully enticed to click the attachment. When the PDF opens, ransomware is installed on the employees’ computers and begins the process of gathering and encrypting corporate data. The goal of the attackers is financial gain, because they hold the company’s data for ransom until they are paid.
View the following video to see a dramatization of how this ransomware attack could happen:
Some of today’s malware is so sophisticated and expensive to create that security experts believe only a nation state or group of nations could possibly have the influence and funding to create it. Such malware can be targeted to attack a nation’s vulnerable infrastructure, such as the water system or power grid.
This was the purpose of the Stuxnet worm, which infected USB drives. These drives were carried by five Iranian component vendors, with the intention of infiltrating nuclear facilities supported by the vendors. Stuxnet was designed to infiltrate Windows operating systems and then target Step 7 software. Step 7 was developed by Siemens for their programmable logic controllers (PLC). Stuxnet was looking for a specific model of the Siemens PLCs that controls the centrifuges in nuclear facilities. The worm was transmitted from the infected USB drives into the PLCs and eventually damaged many of these centrifuges.
Zero Days, a film released in 2016, attempts to document the development and deployment of the Stuxnet targeted malware attack. Search the Internet for a web location where you can view the film.
Threat Actors (1.1.2)
In this topic, you will learn about the motivations of the threat actors behind specific security incidents.
Threat actors include, but are not limited to, amateurs, hacktivists, organized crime groups, state-sponsored and terrorist groups. Threat actors are individuals or a group of individuals who perform cyberattacks against another individual or organization. Cyberattacks are intentional, malicious acts meant to negatively impact another individual or organization.
Amateurs, also known as script kiddies, have little or no skill. They often use existing tools or instructions found on the Internet to launch attacks. Some are just curious, while others try to demonstrate their skills by causing harm. Even though they are using basic tools, the results can still be devastating.
Hacktivists are hackers who protest against a variety of political and social ideas. Hacktivists publicly protest against organizations or governments by posting articles and videos, leaking sensitive information, and disrupting web services with illegitimate traffic in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Financial Gain (22.214.171.124)
Much of the hacking activity that consistently threatens our security is motivated by financial gain. These cybercriminals want to gain access to our bank accounts, personal data, and anything else they can leverage to generate cash flow.
Trade Secrets and Global Politics (126.96.36.199)
The past several years have seen many stories about nation states hacking other countries, or otherwise interfering with internal politics. Nation states are also interested in using cyberspace for industrial espionage. The theft of intellectual property can give a country a significant advantage in international trade.
Defending against the fallout from state-sponsored cyberespionage and cyberwarfare will continue to be a priority for cybersecurity professionals.
How Secure Is the Internet of Things? (188.8.131.52)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is all around us and quickly expanding. We are just beginning to reap the benefits of the IoT. New ways to use connected things are being developed daily. The IoT helps individuals connect things to improve their quality of life. For example, many people are now using connected wearable devices to track their fitness activities. How many devices do you currently own that connect to your home network or the Internet?
How secure are these devices? For example, who wrote the firmware? Did the programmer pay attention to security flaws? Is your connected home thermostat vulnerable to attacks? What about your DVR? If security vulnerabilities are found, can firmware in the device be patched to eliminate the vulnerability? Many devices on the Internet are not updated with the latest firmware. Some older devices were not even developed to be updated with patches. These two situations create opportunity for threat actors and security risks for the owners of these devices.
In October 2016, a DDoS attack against the domain name provider Dyn took down many popular websites. The attack came from a large number of webcams, DVRs, routers, and other IoT devices that had been compromised by malicious software. These devices formed a “botnet” that was controlled by hackers. This botnet was used to create an enormous DDoS attack that disabled essential Internet services. Dyn has posted a blog here to explain the attack and their reaction to it.
Avi Rubin, Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and Technical Director of the JHU Information Security Institute, highlights the dangers of not securing all our connected devices. Search the Internet to view his TED talk.
Threat Impact (1.1.3)
In this topic, you will learn about the potential impact of network security attacks.
PII and PHI (184.108.40.206)
The economic impact of cyberattacks is difficult to ascertain with precision; however, according to an article in Forbes, it is estimated that businesses lose $400 billion annually to cyberattacks.
Personally identifiable information (PII) is any information that can be used to positively identify an individual. Examples of PII include:
Social security number
Credit card numbers
Bank account numbers
Government issued ID
Address information (street, email, phone numbers)
One of the more lucrative goals of cybercriminals is obtaining lists of PII that can then be sold on the dark web. The dark web can only be accessed with special software and is used by cybercriminals to shield their activities. Stolen PII can be used to create fake accounts, such as credit cards and short-term loans.
A subset of PII is protected health information (PHI). The medical community creates and maintains electronic medical records (EMR) that contain PHI. In the United States, handling of PHI is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The equivalent regulation in the European Union is called Data Protection.
Most hacks on companies and organizations reported in the news involved stolen PII or PHI. In only three months in 2016, the following attacks occurred:
In March 2016, a data breach at a health care provider exposed the personal information of 2.2 million patients.
In April 2016, a laptop and portable drives were stolen from a government agency that included personal information for as many as 5 million people.
In May 2016, a data breach at a payroll company exposed the payroll, tax, and benefits information of over 600,000 companies.
Lost Competitive Advantage (220.127.116.11)
Companies are increasingly worried about corporate espionage in cyberspace. An additional major concern is the loss of trust that comes when a company is unable to protect its customers’ personal data. The loss of competitive advantage may come from this loss of trust rather than another company or country stealing trade secrets.
Politics and National Security (18.104.22.168)
It is not just businesses that get hacked. In February 2016, a hacker published the personal information of 20,000 U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees and 9,000 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees. The hacker was apparently politically motivated.
The Stuxnet worm was specifically designed to impede Iran’s progress in enriching uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon. Stuxnet is a prime example of a network attack motivated by national security concerns. Cyberwarfare is a serious possibility. State-supported hacker warriors can cause disruption and destruction of vital services and resources within an enemy nation. The Internet has become essential as a medium for commercial and financial activities. Disruption of these activities can devastate a nation’s economy. Controllers, similar to those attacked by Stuxnet, also are used to control the flow of water at dams and the switching of electricity on the power grid. Attacks on such controllers can have dire consequences.