Cyber crime 'to overtake terrorism' as top threat facing the US

News by Dan Raywood

Iran has been identified as the main cyber threat to the United States as the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) claims that intrusions are not being detected.

Iran has been identified as the main cyber threat to the United States as the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) claims that intrusions are not being detected.

The report by DNI James R. Clapper identified Iran as the main danger to America's information security.

It said: “Russia and China are aggressive and successful purveyors of economic espionage against the United States. Iran's intelligence operations against the United States, including cyber capabilities, have dramatically increased in recent years in depth and complexity. We assess that FIS (foreign intelligence services) from these three countries will remain the top threats to the United States in the coming years.”

He also claimed that FIS have launched numerous computer network operations that target US government agencies, businesses and universities, and believed that "many intrusions into US networks are not being detected".

“Although most activity detected to date has been targeted against unclassified networks connected to the internet, foreign cyber actors have also begun targeting classified networks,” he said.

On insider threats, Clapper said insiders have caused significant damage to US interests through the theft and unauthorised disclosure of classified, economic and proprietary information and other acts of espionage.

Observing the sophistication of computer network operations (CNO), Clapper said these are likely to increase in coming years. He acknowledged the two strategic challenges regarding cyber threats as: the difficulty of providing timely, actionable warning of cyber threats and incidents, such as identifying past or present security breaches, definitively attributing them and accurately distinguishing between cyber espionage intrusions and potentially disruptive cyber attacks; and the highly complex vulnerabilities associated with the IT supply chain for US networks.

“In both cases, US government engagement with private sector owners and operators of critical infrastructures is essential for mitigating these threats,” he said.

According to ABC News, FBI director Robert Mueller said cyber espionage, computer crime and attacks on critical infrastructure will surpass terrorism as the number one threat facing the US.

He said: “I do not think today it is necessarily [the] number one threat, but it will be tomorrow. Counterterrorism – stopping terrorist attacks – with the FBI is the present priority. But down the road, the cyber threat, which cuts across all [FBI] programs, will be the number one threat to the country.”

Research by NCC Group found that cyber crime originating from the UK cost the global economy more than £1.3bn in 2011, with more than 23 million hacks attempted. This placed the UK at 15th in its global hacking league table, with the US and China positioned first and second respectively.

Together those two countries are responsible for nearly 40 per cent of the world's hack attempts, costing the global economy more than $44bn each year.

Rob Cotton, NCC Group's chief executive, said: “Reading the papers each day, it's easy to think of hacking as something that happens to us from afar; that we're victims of foreign criminal gangs in developing countries. Yet hackers can be anywhere in the world, as our research illustrates, including on our own doorstep.

“Fighting this global threat will only work with global collaboration. We hear lots about governments wanting to work together and there's a strong financial motivation to find this long-suggested global solution, but progress is painfully slow.”

Akamai said half of the attack traffic against its platform came from Asia, largely from Indonesia, while Taiwan and China accounted for just under 20 per cent of observed attack traffic.

Attacks from South Korea tripled, while attack traffic originating in Europe was down slightly to 28 per cent, and North and South America accounted for nearly 19 per cent. The remaining four per cent came from Africa.


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