World is at war – with data

The world is in the midst of a data cold war.

The warnings come as the Taliban today accused the US of hacking into their communications network, including their mobile phones, emails and internet, and sending out false messages that its spiritual leader, Mullah Omar had died.

According to Reuters the group has threatened revenge against telephone network providers, as well as America, which it described as a “cunning enemy.”

Only last week the Pentagon announced it had suffered one of its largest losses ever of sensitive data in a cyber-attack which could only have been carried out by a foreign government.

Although it didn’t state which government it meant, we can safely assume that in private, the finger was pointed towards China.

“We have [also] seen alleged attacks on Eastern European countries but we can’t be positive that it was organised by another country. It’s hard to go back and do forensics on an attack like this,” said Raj Samani, CTO for EMEA at McAfee.

He added that we are in the middle of a digital war, and this is “evident with the UK government saying it would allow more funding to fight cyber crime.”

Other countries are also stepping up their fight.

No matter what is being done, things are only going to get worse.  One security expert, familiar with government, told TechEye: “There’s no doubt about it, we’re in a data cold war and have been since the early 21st century. The [last] cold war was tame compared to this one.

“Then all we had was the threat of nuclear bombs.

“Now, we have sensitive data lying around on technology, which our rivals are itching to get hold of.

“China of course is the big player here, upsetting America and the UK and being accused of all sorts of hacking and internet spying, but the US also carries its weight attacking other countries.

“While I can’t confirm this story, I wouldn’t say it was nonsense, it has been known for the US to embark on such practices. Likewise, the UK has acted in the same way against its enemies.

“While we were fighting propaganda in the first cold war, this could end up turning into a “hot” war if we’re not careful.

“Enemies could fire hacking shots, and effectively these could get stronger and cause much more damage. Think of it in the same way as guns. They have become far more sophisticated with each war and the technology world mirrors this.

“With the technology becoming more and more advanced, and hackers becoming wiser, we could soon have to begin looking at new methods to protect our country’s data and keep it from our enemies.”

Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant at Sophos, told us: “We’re already in a data cold war.

“Rival countries are using technology such as the internet to spy on each other and propaganda is being spread between enemy countries.

“This will undoubtedly get worse as we store more and more sensitive data on PCs and mobile phones, with warring countries using tactics to get hold of this information and important data.

“They will also begin using social networking sites to spread propaganda. It’s just an extension of when propaganda material was dropped from planes in the second world war. “

David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky UK, believes it is all evidence of how much we have come to put our trust in technology.

Emm said, “We’re seeing an increase in targeted attacks – consider the recent well-publicised attacks on a number of different organisations.  

“It’s clear that such attacks reflect the extent to which we all now depend on the internet.”