Cyber Espionage Investigations
[ Cyber Espionage ] [ Cyber Espionage Targets ] [ Espionage Methodology ] [ Spy-Operators ] [ Red Flags for Espionage ] [ Cyber Espionage Indicators ] [ Cyber Espionage Counter Measures ] [ Risks of Cyber Espionage ] [ Cyber Espionage Asssesment ]
What is Cyber Espionage?
Cyber Espionage is one of the biggest threats to your economic security. Cyberspies have been hacking into corporations’ computer networks for many decades now. Cyber Criminals & Hackers are stealing your valuable trade secrets, intellectual property data, and confidential business strategies. You could be drained of your wealth and lose your competitive advantage as we speak, under your very nose and you would not notice it until it’s done. It’s worth taking note that it happened on your watch. The accountability issues are huge. You will need to conduct a Cyber Espionage Investigation to understand what is going on.
Corporations & organizations need to wake up and build a strong cyber defense strategy before it’s too late.
This cloak-and-dagger activity is part of undercover work. Cyberspies are sometimes after secret government data or will try to breach the security of big corporations in order to steal other confidential info. The exfiltrated information is gathered to obtain a personal, economic, political, or military-strategic, or tactical advantage, other commercial strategic advantages.
The intelligence gathered by spies can also be used for psychological, political, and physical subversion or even acts of sabotage. OSINT & SOCMINT became a substantial tools in this perspective since data analysts will analyze the activity of specific subjects or groups on social networking channels.
This is why you need to invest in cybersecurity since all our research data and events show that cyberespionage is an increasingly imminent threat. The detrimental effects of Industrial espionage are not to be underestimated.
Cyber Spying is closely associated – but not exactly the same – with undercover surveillance, data exfiltration, data theft, intelligence gathering, eavesdropping, infiltration, counterintelligence, counter-espionage, ninjutsu, bugging, TSCM, wiretapping, reconnaissance (recon).
What and who are the targets of cyber espionage?
- secret & private data from individuals
- large corporations
- government agencies
- academic institutions
- think tanks
- organizations, NGOs, not for profits
- government officials
- business executives
- security officers
- technology service providers – supply chain attack – hijacking devices and modifying hardware
How to you know if you are a target of cyber espionage?
- intellectual property and commercial data from competitors
- plans and confidential data from rivals, adversary groups
- government intelligence
- national security-related info
- critical infrastructure sectors (electricity, water, nuclear, energy, oil & gas, pipelines, etc..)
- hospitals and medical facilities (obtain medical records and other data)
- military intelligence
- police, security forces, and law enforcement
- law firms
- essential any secure facility or non-public, yet protected data-pocket
Espionage Methods and Spy Operators:
- hacking methods using the internet & networks
- cracking & hacking methodology
- use malicious software (trojan horses, spyware)
- remote hacking tools
- closeby infiltration (on-site) – water hose technique
- conventional espionage
- insertion of moles
- use of hired criminals or malicious hackers
- software programmers providing backdoors into systems
- advanced persistent threats (APT) – APT groups
- infiltration of organizations & companies
- social engineering methods
- malware attacks
- ransomware attacks
- insider threat
- spy bugs, electronic equipment tapping your communications
What are the Red Flags or indicators that you are being spied upon?
- previously confidential documents leak out (online or selectively)
- identical products & services developed by competitors
- theft of trade secrets leading to similar patents being filed
- suspicious activity on your computer network
- increased activity on your website hosting
- suspicious IP numbers connecting to your network
- malware and other suspicious software on your devices
- unauthorized resets of systems
- unscheduled backups, repairs, and maintenance
- unauthorized persons accessing secure premises
- social engineering attacks (phishing emails, strange phone calls…)
- tricking people to give out confidential information
- trick people into installing malicious software
- telephone scams
- fake emails
- infected attachment sent via emails
- suspicious links in emails
- the sender of email which is not a recognized person or properly identifiable organization
- fake social media accounts requesting to connect to your company ID
- irrelevant requests are made via email or phone
- people suddenly want to access certain places or data without clear reason or authorization
- messages with spelling and grammatical errors, wrong phrases
Is your network infected by Malware, Spyware or Ransomware?
Actions & Counter Measures to take against cyber espionage.
- do social engineering phishing tests to identify vulnerabilities and solutions
- zero tolerance for security breaches
- train staff, workforce and vendors to detect the signs
- hire professionally trained people who can do this for you
- Covert Operations
- Cyber Espionage Investigiation
- Security Awareness Training
- Establish an Incident Response Center with real operators
- Create a Clear Security Policy & SOP
What are the Risks of Cyber Espionage for your organization?
- reputational harm
- leak of private information via databreach
- loss of shareholder & customer trust in your brand
- loss of tactical or strategic intelligence in cyber terrorism & cyber warfare by cyber espionage
- disruption of public services
- attack on (critical) infrastructure facilities (the soft underbelly of society)
- leak of salary information and finanical data
- damage to your supply chain & business
Cyber Espionage Investigation
Currently, we live in an extremely complex ecosystem of cyber espionage, nation-state hacking, APTgroups, ransomware, data breaches & cyber attacks that have regularly compromised governments, government agencies, health care services, businesses, corporations, academic and educational institutions, critical infrastructure, and other connected computer network systems.
Hence the need for professional Cyber Espionage Investigations has increased. Every different sector requires a specific approach. Over the years we have developed relevant cyber insights & threat intelligence in the threats that are facing these industries or regulators. The following elements (this is a forensic process) are addressed in such types of investigations:
- analysis of stolen data
- enumeration of the sensitive targets & attack vectors
- Investigation of a Cyber Espionage Network requires at least 12 months of focus
- 1st an analysis is done on the allegations at hand
- enumeration of the network of compromised computers (the spread)
- list of the high value targets
- cloud connectivity investigation – what is connected to the cloud?
The main stages in the Cyber Spy Investigation process:
- Technical interrogation (Sinkhole – DNS Sinkhole Server)
- collect intelligence on attack method
- Boots on the ground / field investigation
- Analysis of Data Acquired
- Understanding the Geopolitical or other relevant context
- Malware analysis
- which type, which template
- command & control servers
- which file-types sent? (PPT DOC PDF EXR)
- Document the Cyber Kill Chain (methods used)
- understand the capabilities of the attackers and their targets
- command and control servers
- which data was exfiltrated
- who was compromised & how
- description of a botnet used
- time of the attacks
- type of exploitation – what kind of malicious activities?
- what type of social engineering was used?
- identitify the perpetrators
- understand the motivation of the attackers
- document links to criminal networks
- determine the fall-out and spread of the attack
- which domain names, URLs and IP addresses were used by the attackers
- retrieve & decrypt the stolen documents
- list of compromised login credentials, email-accounts, VPN-accounts, passwords, etc..
- list of confidential information stolen – which data was exfiltrated
- login credentials
- configuration settings
- level of confidentiality of these documents (how secret)
- list of email addresses used by the attackers
- reporting process to the relevant authorities
- potential of simular attacks in connected entities (lateral movement)
- determine the extent of the dammage – including collateral damage
- in depth study & analysis of the correlations in order to to determine the motivation and attribution (who did what, how, when, how, to what end, why, what instructions received ,etc…)
- what type of cyber espionage was at play?
- nation-state cyber espionage
- localized incident
- script kiddies?
- corporate espionage?
- APT Groups
- Internal “Hackers”
- External Hacking
- recommendations for the future (prevention, resilience, risk analysis)