Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Big One

The big one is here.

No, I'm not talking about earthquakes Californians; so don't go running to check on your disaster preparedness kits. I'm talking about cyber attacks, or more specifically, a cyber attack. A really big cyber attack that apparently went on for nearly five years and very probably originated in China.

Computer security firm McAfee issued a report today revealing that a massive, global cyber attack had succeeded in targeting more than 70 different governmental and private organizations. Apparently the attacks had been going on since 2006 without anyone's knowledge. The attacks are believed to have been launched by a nation state and although no names were named, the finger seems pointed in the general direction of China.

According to McAfee these attacks were directed at a wide variety of international organizations including the International Olympics Committee, the United Nations and several U.S. companies including the Associated Press.

McAfee's report also indicates that these attacks differ fundamentally from the recent wave of attacks perpetrated by self-proclaimed "hacktivist" groups like LulzSec and Anonymous. While those groups perpetrate high profile hacks meant to grab headlines, the attacks this report is centered on were carried out discretely for years and were designed to avoid being detected. Unlike Anonymous and LulzSec, these hackers weren't after publicity. They were after information, lots of it. And although the McAfee report doesn't delve too deeply into specifics, it would seem they were quite successful.

The report indicates the hackers were able to gain access to national secrets, source codes, negotiation plans and exploration reports for new oil and gas fields.

Of course what's a cyber attack without a cool nickname? This latest attack is no exception with McAfee having dubbed it, "Operation Shady RAT." RAT stands for remote access tool, which is a means hackers use of accessing computer networks remotely.

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