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Computers have become key in exercising industrial espionage due to the enormous amount of information they contain and its ease of being copied and transmitted. The use of computers for espionage increased rapidly in the 1990s. Information has been commonly stolen by being copied from unattended computers in offices, those gaining unsupervised access doing so through subsidiary jobs, such as cleaners or repairmen. Laptops were, and still are, a prime target, with those traveling abroad on business being warned not to leave them for any period of time. Perpetrators of espionage have been known to find many ways of conning unsuspecting individuals into parting, often only temporarily, from their possessions, enabling others to access and steal information. A “bag-op” refers to the use of hotel staff to access data, such as through laptops, in hotel rooms. Information may be stolen in transit, in taxis, at airport baggage counters, baggage carousels, on trains and so on.
The rise of the internet and computer networks has expanded the range and detail of information available and the ease of access for the purpose of industrial espionage.Worldwide, around 50,000 companies a day are thought to come under cyberattack with the rate estimated as doubling each year. This type of operation is generally identified as state backed or sponsored, because the “access to personal, financial or analytic resources” identified exceed that which could be accessed by cybercriminals or individual hackers. Sensitive military or defense engineering or other industrial information may not have immediate monetary value to criminals, compared with, say, bank details. Analysis of cyberattacks suggests deep knowledge of networks, with targeted attacks, obtained by numerous individuals operating in a sustained organized way.
Opportunities for sabotage
The rising use of the internet has also extended opportunities for industrial espionage with the aim of sabotage. In the early 2000s, it was noticed that energy companies were increasingly coming under attack from hackers. Energy power systems, doing jobs like monitoring power grids or water flow, once isolated from the other computer networks, were now being connected to the internet, leaving them more vulnerable, having historically few built-in security features. The use of these methods of industrial espionage have increasingly become a concern for governments, due to potential attacks by terrorist groups or hostile foreign governments.
One of the means of perpetrators conducting industrial espionage is by exploiting vulnerabilities in computer software. Malware and spyware as “a tool for industrial espionage”, in “transmitting digital copies of trade secrets, customer plans, future plans and contacts”. Newer forms of malware include devices which surreptitiously switch on mobile phones camera and recording devices. In attempts to tackle such attacks on their intellectual property, companies are increasingly keeping important information off network, leaving an “air gap”, with some companies building “Faraday cages” to shield from electromagnetic or cellphone transmissions.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack
The distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack uses compromised computer systems to orchestrate a flood of requests on the target system, causing it to shut down and deny service to other users. It could potentially be used for economic or industrial espionage with the purpose of sabotage. This method was allegedly utilized by Russian secret services, over a period of two weeks on a cyberattack on Estonia in May 2007, in response to the removal of a Soviet era war memorial.
Type of Cyber Attacks
Related security categories
- Computer crime
- Viruses and worms
- Denial of service
- Malware and Homegrown Technology
- Botnets and Zombie Computers
- Phishing, Spear Phishing, and Pharming
- Access Control Systems
- Application security
- Firewall (computing)
- Intrusion detection system
- Intrusion prevention system
- Mobile secure gateway