|What is e-espionage?
'Espionage’ is obtaining valuable or confidential information by theft, stealth and other illegitimate means, and the internet is now the most common route. These days, e-espionage or electronic ‘espionage by malware’ is carried out by organised syndicates who have ‘broken into’ targets as diverse as the White House, Google, Data Protection Software vendor Kaspersky and the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit.
Estimates put the cost of e-espionage to US companies at around $300 billion a year, with ‘proprietary information being gathered by governments, local and international competitors, organizations, criminals, terrorists and individuals.’ Experts in Europe estimate that espionage is costing German industry in excess of 50 billion Euros a year.
Mandiant,a specialist security firm working with Fortune 500 companies, says it ‘has seen a dramatic change in information security incidents. Superbly capable teams of attackers have successfully expanded their intrusions at government and defence-related targets ... to researchers, manufacturers, law firms, and even non-profits.’ These attacks use custom malware designed for e-espionage and which ‘standard security tools usually do not detect.’ That is, the likelihood of undetected penetration by this type of attack is high.
Who are likely targets?
Even back in July 2010, ASIO Director David Irvine stated that ‘corporate networks were as much a target for ‘foreign cyber sleuths seeking to steal Australia’s secrets’ as defence and government agencies. On the same day, then Defence Minister John Faulkner added that, of more than 2400 ‘incidents on networks considered to be medium to high risk’ in 2009, only 200 were directly related to defence.
It’s not just governments that are at risk of data theft by e-espionage. Victims now include researchers, manufacturers, law firms and even non-profits so, if you hold information of value, you need to take the threat seriously.Data Protection & eEspionage. If you thought only governments and global corporations had to worry about e-espionage, it’s time to think again.
Moving forward to 2011, ASIO has now created a unit to protect Australia's online networks: ‘Known as the cyber espionage branch,it was formed in the past nine months and is believed to be under the control of ASIO's counter-espionage and interference division.’