Cyber Security

Top Cyber Threats for 2013

June 18, 2013

Bita Beigishah

Cyber Threat 2013Everyone should be well aware that cyber security is the number one issue that countries are facing around the world. Attacks originating from China, Israel, Russia, Iran, North Korea and the US are major news and we have already discussed the impending issue of Cyber War in a previous blog.

However, cyber security is a very vague word to use when referring to attacks and it made us wonder, what are the MOST damaging cyber-attacks organizations need to watch for?

Well according to a McAfee report on cyber preparedness, it turns out the top attacks of 2013 are:

  1. Cyber-hacktivism
  2. Cloud hacking
  3. Mobile and tablet hacking
  4. Advanced persistent threat (APT)

We will take you through each of these attacks below so you know what types of attacks you need to prepare for and the damage you can expect to incur if any are successful.


This is a form of protest, activism or civil disobedience carried out through technology and cyberspace. These groups are often not after financial gain but rather notoriety and exposure to their particular cause. Two of the most well-known hacktivist groups are Anonymous and LulzSec. Both groups have been linked to a number of publicized hacks including, but not limited to, ones affecting:

  • US Government Agencies
  • PayPal
  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • Sony

Hacktivists typically follow one of three strategies in order to get their point across:

  1. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to flood an organization’s servers and prevent the flow of legitimate traffic
  2. Hacking private servers to publish documents
  3. Doxing to find and publish personal or corporate information

These attacks all raise the concern of the effects from blocking the flow of money via eCommerce, taking down major sites and ultimately damaging an organization’s databases. The losses incurred from these attacks are less monetary in nature but can affect the way an organization operates and provide their competition with an edge during down-time. Additionally, the exposure of private documents and information can always negatively affect an organization, even if it is only temporarily.

Cloud Hacking

The greatest fear when it comes to cloud hacking is that by attacking a central repository the cracker can gain access to not just one but thousands of companies’ data. The term that is used most often is hyper-jacking and it reflects a user’s ability to hack many systems at once through the cloud architecture and gain access to valuable and numerous pieces of data instantaneously. Due to this, cloud computing providers must be skilled in maintaining the security of the virtualization systems that are in place and constantly stay on top of changing threats.

More businesses are making the move to the cloud to reduce costs and it is opening up a world of opportunity for crackers seeking access to their information. It is the responsibility of the cloud computing firm to make sure that all data is secured through instituting multi-layers of defenses and heightened detection capabilities; however, it is also up to the organization utilizing these services to ensure that the company is doing their job to protect the cloud architecture from exploitations.

Mobile and Tablet Hacking

BYOD is a prevalent movement across industries that we can safely say is not going to leave us any time soon. As a result of the influx of new and most likely unsecured devices that can access organizational information, the amount of vulnerable data will skyrocket. While everyone understands the benefits of BYOD and its ability to dramatically cut organizational costs, the security aspect of it is often neglected. The fact of the matter is simple, mobile devices and the apps installed on them are surprisingly unsecure; developers focus their efforts primarily towards the aspects of design and features and leave security as an afterthought. This leaves devices that contain vital information wide open to malicious attacks and can leave companies panicking after the crime is committed. Additionally, hackers are creating new and creative ways for compromising mobile devices and organizations need to keep up or risk losing valuable data.

As we continue on with 2013, organizations need to put the effort into creating and instituting a clear BYOD plan for security and developers need to learn the security side of mobile applications. To help with the development side, CompTIA even introduced a new certification training course geared exclusively towards incorporating security onto either iOS or Android applications.

Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)

This has become the cyber equivalent to street gangs; highly organized and specialized groups that use their skills to achieve monetary reward or competitive advantage. Whether it is the Russian cyber mafia or groups funded by a nation’s intelligence agencies, such as in Israel, these groups are highly sophisticated in their skills and have the necessary funding to execute damaging attacks. These attacks are classified by individuals gaining unauthorized access into a network for an extended period of time; the goal of these attacks is not to cause noticeable damage but rather to steal valuable amounts of data from the infiltrated system. Advanced persistent threat is the source behind cyber espionage attacks and a well-trained group of crackers can stay undetected for a prolonged amount of time within a network and slip out all without being noticed.

These attacks pose threats to financial institutions, manufacturing firms and defense agencies all of which carry data that can be valuable to their competition. The primary fear with these assaults remains the sophistication with which these attacks are executed and their low detection rates. Prevention, therefore, becomes a huge part in securing the system and the use of ethical hacking to constantly revise the measures which are in place. Education also plays a key role as many advanced persistent threat attacks begin with social engineering tactics in order to gain the primary level of access necessary to complete the remainder of the attack. 

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