IoT Brings with it Potential State-funded Cyber Crimes
Over recent months, it has become increasingly clear that IoT runs the potential risk of being exploited by nation-states, and not always in a good sense. Over the past decade, technology has made the impossible, possible, quite literally. The internet of things (IoT) has made real what would have been considered a mere piece of fiction even a few years ago. A multitude of internet connected devices have made our lives easier, and of course, faster; as we move beyond the information age, technology dominates our everyday lives like never before.
Yet, with millions of digitally connected gadgets and the sheer quantity of data that gets transferred every one tenth of a second, no wonder there are gaping holes in security, making safety a primary concern in the internet ecosystem. Over recent months, it has become increasingly clear that IoT runs the potential risk of being exploited by nation-states, and not always in a good sense.
Government surveillance, albeit the underlying theme of numerous conspiracy theories over the years, is of course real, and has been so for decades. Yet, with technology evolving and becoming more cutting edge, surveillance has taken newer and previously unthinkable forms. For instance, state backed hackers are not only targeting data from government agencies that could be relevant for the nation’s security, but even industrial enterprises and commercial networks, thus leaking confidential information that would harm the organization, and subsequently the country to which it belongs.
According to Robert Hannigan, former director general of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), UK, “We are seeing a cross over between nation-states and criminal groups acting on their behalf, sometimes with the same people working on nation state cyber activities by day and criminal activities by night.”
In recent years, cyber-attack incidents came in the shape of the unprecedented Wannacry ransomware that ripped through Microsoft Windows operating systems globally in 2017. The major brunt of the hacking was borne by the National Health Service (NHS), UK, as hospitals and health care facilities across England and Scotland were some of the worst hit. Other countries that were affected by the malware included Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine and India. Over the past months, the United States administration accused North Korea of having unleashed the attack. Similarly, other countries like Russia and Iran are rumored to be major players in launching cyber-attacks around the world.
Furthermore, emboldened by sophisticated cyber toolkits, state-funded hackers have started encroaching into the personal space of other hacking groups. For this they make use of the passive stance, such as eavesdropping and intercepting communication, as well as the active stance, for instance sending malware, Trojans and the theft of data and sensitive information. The cyber warfare between hackers makes it all the more difficult for cybersecurity professionals to ensure safety.
More recently, a warning has been issued jointly by the US and the UK against possible Russian cyber-attacks that could penetrate not only into government agencies and private organizations but also into private homes and offices. What had until now been confined within certain selected sectors, is now gradually seeping into the most personal domains of individuals.
No one then, not even private citizens, are immune from being targeted by malicious state-sponsored cyber-attacks. Some of the foremost corporations in the world are addressing challenges of cyber-attacks in their own ways. For instance, Microsoft has invested 1 billion dollars annually for cyber security. It is vital to apply best practices that would be able to tackle the continually evolving technology that is at the service of the perpetrators.
There are two sides to every coin. The unbelievable evolution of technology, especially with the advent of IoT, has made cybersecurity mandatory, just as it has made possible a better, more advanced way of life. While the idea of cybersecurity is still largely misunderstood by the common man, the fact remains that the threats that exist in the cyber landscape could have more severe ramifications in human life, than those existing in the physical world. It is better, therefore, to appreciate the potential dangers of the internet, and enforce cyber security for a safer future, especially in a world where nation-states have gained unimaginable power over their own citizens.