China blue Army SIGNIT

Cyber-Espionage

The Greatest Transfer of Wealth in History': how significant is the cyber-espionage threat?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}

[dhr]

China blue Army SIGNIT

[dhr]

This paper presents a synoptic assessment of cyber-espionage, exploring the increased enthusiasm and capacity to exploit system vulnerabilities in order to illicitly obtain intellectual property, trade secrets, and competitive advantage. It considers how progressive technologies, tool sharing, and improved technical and social engineering techniques have augmented and indeed transformed modern espionage, making it increasingly easy for malign actors — whether malevolent insiders, foreign intelligence services, or hackers for hire — to steal vast libraries of sensitive information with instant results, minimal cost, and relative anonymity.

This investigation is presented through five distinct areas of analysis: After a brief synopsis of the technological and communicative shifts which have fostered the growth of cyber-espionage, a review of the public, political, and scholarly discourses surrounding cyber-security shall be presented, in an effort to establish what we really mean when we talk of ‘cyber-espionage’. This will be followed by a discussion of the many difficulties associated with establishing and recording the true cost of espionage. The ambiguities and cultural disparities revealed by attempts to accurately attribute offences shall then be examined, followed by a brief overview of the crucial, but often overlooked, non-technical methods employed by such attacks. In concluding, many of the problems facing policymakers shall be considered, and the need for inter-disciplinary co-operation in formulating a more nuanced, holistic understanding of cyber-security shall be reiterated.

By drawing upon pertinent case studies and applicable theoretical paradigms throughout, gauging the associated assets, exploits, and vulnerabilities involved, I shall demonstrate that not only is cyber-espionage a genuine and escalating threat, but its implications have far greater consequence for the balance of global power, than traditional military dominance or sensationalist notions of cyber-warfare.

Definitions and Limitations

It is important to recognise this papers limitations, especially when approaching an eclectic, multi-disciplinary field still in its relative infancy[1]. Distinguishing ‘cyber-espionage’, as considered here, from ‘cyber-warfare’ is fundamental. The former concerns the exploitation of cyberspace and human intelligence as a means of illicitly gathering, collating, and analysing covertly extracted data, the latter focuses on the efficacy of malicious code as a weapon and/or to supplement traditional kinetic warfare[2]. Equally, this paper does not represent a detailed forensic examination of cyber-weapons or DDoS attacks, but instead focuses on the economic, political, and social implications of cyber-espionage. Finally, although many themes presented here have wider application, this paper’s primary focus is that of the infiltration and theft of sensitive data from private companies, research facilities, and government contractors — consequentially one should be cautious when making broader comparisons or drawing wider generalisations to other areas of cyber security[3].

In order to adequately address the question and circumvent theoretical quandaries debating contentious terms, it is crucial to employ solid working definitions from the outset, whilst acknowledging more suitable and descriptive vocabulary may evolve in the future[4]. Throughout, ‘the internet’ refers to the “global computer network, providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected [network of] networks using standardised communication protocols”[5]. Here, ‘cyberspace’ is taken as the “total landscape of technology mediated communication” as outlined by Stevens[6]. It takes Rid’s[7] definition of ‘cyber-espionage’ as “attempt[s] to penetrate an adversarial system for purposes of extracting sensitive or protected information… either social or technical in nature”. It utilises Berners-Lee’s description of ‘W3’ as “the universe of network-accessible information, resources and users on the Internet…using Hypertext-Transfer-Protocol”[8].

Globalisation and Late-Modernity

The exponential rise of information based economies, concomitant to the universal ascension of the internet and other advanced computer mediated communications (CMC), are unprecedented modern phenomena. Alongside other pervasive expressions of late-modernity and globalisation, they will likely come to epitomise this phase of human history as the enlightenment and industrial revolution have previous centuries[9]. Huge advancements in the speed, volume, and accessibility of information, as well as the systems and virtual architecture that constitute and sustain cyberspace[10], have transformed the way we communicate, work, trade, innovate, research, develop, and store information in our increasingly ‘glocal’ world[11].

The rapid growth experienced by China and India especially, but also Vietnam, Russia, Indonesia, and Brazil, have seen new global players emerge, which have begun to challenge the hegemonic dominance of the West[12]. Technological advancements in CMC saw internet penetration and W3 usage increase by 556% in 12 years; from 360 million in 2000, to 2.4 billion in 2012[13]. By 2016 the world population is expected to reach 7.3 billion, with internet facing mobile devices topping 10 billion[14]. Whilst cyberspace has cultivated and nurtured innovation, productivity, efficiency, and transnational co-operation, it has simultaneously exposed vulnerabilities and revealed new threats, due to its open nature and our increased reliance upon it[15]. It is no surprise malevolent  actors have also enthusiastically exploited the internet to infiltrate and extract information from opponents at immense speeds and on enormous scales, underscoring the changing nature of espionage and the increasing redundancy of traditional counter-measures[16].

Discourse and Rhetoric

Aside from detailed and rapidly evolving computer science analysis, a cursory examination of the current literature reveals a tendency to focus on government-centric paradigms, offensive strategies, and warfare models of cyber security[17]. These themes have reinforced sensationalist public discourses, and apocalyptic moral panics concerning cyber attacks[18]. Leon Panetta’s almost Nostradamian predictions of a pending “cyber Pearl Harbour”, and Vanity Fair’s equally inane and rather crass analogy of the Stuxnet virus as the “Hiroshima of cyber-war”, are perhaps most infamous examples of this[19]. The end-of-days rhetoric propagated by Clarke[20], in which planes fall from the skies, trains derail, critical infrastructure fails, nuclear reactors meltdown, and military defences crumble, appears to have become an recurrent narrative in both the wings of Washington and the corridors of Whitehall.

In an attempt to substitute the sensational for the rational, and replace the speculative with the empirical, scholars and policy makers alike should be mindful that all known instances of politically motivated cyber-attack are essentially advanced versions of three activities; sabotage, subversion, and, of course, espionage[21]. Whilst these actions are certainly as ancient as warfare, they do not constitute an act of war in the classic Clausewitzian[22] sense, as the three constitutive elements of ‘war’ are not present: violence and potential lethality of the act, the instrumental imposition of will, and political impetus and so discernible culpability. Indeed the majority of oft-cited incidents of ‘cyber-war’ have, in fact, been cases of espionage, and although the level of technical expertise and complexity may be high, espionage by its very nature is not explicitly instrumental, let alone violent[23]. Espionage amounts to the clandestine gathering of information that may subsequently help establish better instruments of war, inform tactical decisions (or as is increasingly the case) enhance commercial advantage, secure material assets, resources, and business dominance. Given that there is no direct linear relationship between computer keystrokes and physical violence, ‘cyber-war’ is unlikely to replace kinetic military tactics anytime soon[24]. However, when considering espionage, cyber methods not only supplement, but now surpass traditional methods, as the primary tactic of infiltration and data exfilitration, begging the question; at what point should one drop the ‘cyber’ prefix, and simply talk of ‘espionage’?

Discovered in 2012, Flame is a salient example of “a complete attack toolkit designed for general cyber-espionage purposes”[25] and is probably “the most complex malware ever found”[26]. Flame infected approximately 1,000 specific machines including governmental organisations, educational and research institutions, and private computers across the Middle East[27]. Partly written in Lua script with linked C++ code, the dropper allowed for other attack modules to be downloaded after initial infection[28]. An atypically large programme at 20 megabytes, Flame utilised five encryption methods and an SQLite database to store information[29]. The injection vector was covert and the malware itself sophisticated, in the sense it ascertained a machine’s particular antivirus software, and customised its behaviour accordingly to reduce the likelihood of detection. It altered file-name extensions and protected memory pages, even including a remote ‘kill’ function to purge itself if identified[30]. Flame also installed a fake audio driver which was used to maintain persistent control over the compromised system[31]. Due to the complex, multifaceted composition of the malware, Flame’s apparent objectives (ostensibly built to attack primarily Iranian targets) and the associated timescale and development costs, it is likely a “nation-state sponsored the research”[32] and most experts and acquainted commentators have indicated probable Israeli involvement[33].

Inconsistency, Inaccuracy, and Inaction

Gauging the cost of cyber-espionage, to consumers, companies, and/or governments, has been hugely controversial[34]. How representative estimates are, when compiled by profit-motivated software security companies, should be bore in mind here[35]. Symantec[36] place the cost of intellectual property theft to the U.S. at $250 billion a year, with cybercrime at a further $114 billion annually, or $388 billion inclusive of downtime[37]. McAfee[38] estimated global remediation costs to be a staggering $1 trillion per annum, however this is heavily contested, even by those academics McAfee claim to cite[39]. Detica and the Cabinet Office report the cost of cybercrime to UK to be £27 billion in 2012, of which £16.8 billion amounts to intellectual property theft and industrial espionage[40]. The Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) investigated 855 incidents of industrial and corporate systems penetration, recording 174 million compromised records across the US, UK, Holland, Ireland and Australia in 2012[41]. Recently MI5 made the unprecedented move of issuing 300 warning letters to UK business leaders highlighting the risk of “electronic espionage” from “Chinese…organisations”[42]. Indeed, according to Jonathan Evans, MI5 Director General, an “astonishing[ly]” high level of cyber-espionage target Western nations on an almost “industrial scale”[43]. These remarks echo General Keith Alexander, NSA Director, who claims cyber-espionage amounts to “the greatest transfer of wealth in history”[44].

Yet despite enormous losses being cited and stark warnings being issued, the true extent of cyber-espionage is not fully known and may ultimately be incalculable[45]. The difficulties in precise estimations are many, including but not limited to: Companies not reporting or publicising losses; for fear of brand and/or reputation damage, company devaluation, loss of public confidence and sales. Inconsistency in cost calculations; does one just include the cost of research and development? Or projected future earnings? Anticipatory costs such as antivirus software, insurance, penetration testing etc.? Consequential direct and indirect expenditures? Responsive costs such as compensation, fines, or remediation?. Inability to ascribe economic value to certain information, such as; minutes from meetings, business-to-business correspondence, marketing strategies, or data with transitory value. Apathetic or indifferent reaction to attacks; companies may misunderstand, slowly respond, or be simply naïve to the severity and immediacy the threat poses to their business[46].

Often organisations are unaware or unconcerned their systems have been compromised — of the 855 incidents investigated by the DBIR, 92% did not discover their breach until an external party informed them[47]. Threat ignorance is clearly concerning, but a stark illustration of how indifference may be equally challenging is articulated by Brian Shields, former ICT Security Advisor at Nortel Networks Corp., who realised in 2004 that passwords of senior executives had been compromised[48]. Tracing the originating IP address to Shanghai, Shields requested an investigation, yet beyond changing passwords no further action was taken[49]. In 2008, recurrent background data exchanges with a Beijing server was again detected, unearthing a major eight year data exfiltration stretching back to 2000[50]. Shields wrote a beseeching 14 page letter to Nortel’s Board of Directors, warning; “the Chinese are still in your system…steal[ing] technologies”, and “not [to] trust the security of any [digital] information”, as “sales, costing, business strategy, research and development” were all being routinely monitored and compromised[51]. Nortel, once the telecommunications equipment world leader valued at over $250 billion, filed for bankruptcy the following year in 2009[52].

Over the same 2000-2009 period Nortel’s primary competitor, Huawei Technologies, headquartered in Shenzhen, China, and founded by ex-military technologist Ren Zhengfei, saw accelerated growth[53]. The year following Nortel’s bankruptcy, Huawei, who only began internationally trading the year of Nortel’s original breach, declared record profits of $3.64 billion[54]. The U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee went as far as issuing a report in 2012 warning of the risks posed by Huawei, both in terms of their business practices and their monopoly of the communication technologies industry[55]. Today Huawei supply 45 of the world’s 50 largest telecommunications operators, yet whether Nortel’s long-term compromise and eventual collapse is linked to Huawei’s extraordinary success remains hugely contentious[56]. Former Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski maintains those “who looked at [the hacking] did not believe it was a real issue”[57], and it very well may be the case that poor business decisions and over-expansion are the true root causes. Nonetheless, the negative correlation between the rise of Huawei and the fall of Nortel, combined with the amazing set of coincidences involved, could equally lead one to a different conclusion entirely. Here Janis’ criminological analysis of white-collar crime and specifically the concept of ‘groupthink’ may have import — where boardroom conformity to prototypical collective world-views can bypass critical evaluation, condemn criticism, and rationalise (in)action[58].

Even when decisive moves are made to mitigate losses, often breaches can be concealed from regulators, employees, the public, even shareholders and senior executives by the company involved[59]. In 2009 hackers pilfered sensitive information regarding Coca-Cola’s $2.4 billion attempted takeover of Huiyuan Juice Group, tipped to be the largest foreign acquisition of a Chinese company in history[60]. Coca-Cola never publicly disclosed the breach, the nature of the attack, nor why the Huiyuan deal collapsed three days later[61]. This culture of silence is by no means unique to Coca-Cola, breaches often only later being divulged by internal reviews or individual whistle-blowers. Following the theft of sensitive archives, BG Group did not go public[62], neither did steel manufacturer ArcelorMittal after cyber attacks targeted Chinese acquisition executives, nor did Chesapeake Energy when information relating to their tenure of gas leases was extracted[63]. Indeed, transient or temporal information regarding high-stake business transactions, mergers, and acquisitions has become highly prized and increasingly targeted. A week prior to the Iraqi Rumaila oilfield going to auction, oil giants ExxonMobil, Total, Fina and others were infiltrated and confidential bidding information compromised[64]. The world’s fourth largest oil field, producing 1.33 million barrels per day, was eventually secured in partnership by China National Petroleum Company, although clearly the direct connection of the two remains unsubstantiated and a hugely controversial issue[65].

Attribution, Deniability, and Cultural Biases

The majority of sophisticated cyber-espionage attacks suggest Chinese, Russian or Israeli involvement, although directly attributing responsibility for these incidents has proven recurrently nebulous and, often, politically strenuous[66]. The intentional global distribution and obscurity of attacks, via numerous proxy servers across multiple countries, has meant competent hackers enjoy relative anonymity in committing cyber-espionage[67]. Although often framed as an exclusively technical problem, the attribution issue is far more multifarious[68]. Attempts have been further confounded by the blurring of criminal and political acts, as well as conventional notions of ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ actors[69].

Associated with the characteristics of Web 2.0 and contemporary W3 social movements, the ubiquity of effortless propagation, dissemination and redistribution of information, via CMC, through online communities, is the most socially and, therefore, politically significant of all prevailing modern trends[70]. Certain underground hacking communities in cyberspace encourage tool sharing, code swapping, and the proliferation of malicious software, as well as facilitating Dark Web black-markets trading in zero-day vulnerabilities and stolen data[71]. These clandestine forums, what Villeneuve[72] describes as “malware ecosystems”, consist of an array of programmers who understand network protocols, can write code, create viruses, malware, and rootkits, and who may even operate botnet infrastructures. There are also technicians who compile, package, and effectively utilise pre-built, open source, hacking tools, the so-called novice ‘script-kiddies’ who dabble with the execution of basic code, and surreptitious traders who actually buy and sell stolen data[73]. It is also extremely likely that nation-states covertly engage and trade in these forums.

In line with the post-territorial, founding philosophy of the Internet[74], Sanderson describes how large-scale adoption of CMC has dissolved boundaries of physical locality and consequentially our understanding of ‘community’[75]. Wellman and Gullia[76] suggest such virtual arenas “foster the formation of social networks and personal communities”, but that such environments are distinctly insular and retreatist in nature[77]. Wiktorowicz points to primary social contact occurring within small, introverted, clandestine dynamics, as conducive to cultivating high-risk behaviours[78]. Suler[79] highlights how the dissociative anonymity of W3 mitigates ones accountability, whilst disinhibition effect reduces restraint. Freed from societal checks and balances of normative behavioural conduct, and combined with the solipsistic introjection of imagined character traits onto others, Turkle[80] notes how users of online communities to put their “fantasies-into-action”[81]. Such enabling environments have successfully blurred lines between criminal exploitation and political espionage, making digital forensics and the ascription culpability and blame an increasingly complex and painstaking task[82].

Some states have proactively exploited this ambiguity to provide a plausible position of legal deniably in committing hostile cyber acts. Utilising freelance, criminal, or independent ‘patriotic’ hackers to augment state operations seeking to spy upon or compromise foreign governments, military, industrial, and economic assets, has muddied the water yet further[83]. Whilst the vast majority of purportedly state-sponsored cyber attacks have been for the purpose of espionage, the very notions of ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ actors are not as patently discrete as often assumed[84]. Henderson’s research into the Red Hacker Alliance (RHA) is an interesting case in point[85]. Although RHA’s assertion of being an independent union of hackers appears correct, the terminology and cultural disparity of the inquiry is fundamentally flawed, and concluding the Chinese state and RHA are completely disassociated is decidedly misleading. Walton[86] explains the difficulty arises when formulating distinctions based upon Western “liberal, democratic conception[s] of the nation-state”, where one’s cultural biases assume that elements of Chinese society acting ‘autonomously’ must imply a disconnect from the state, and conversely, cyber-espionage must entail the briefing, mobilisation, and supervision of a government entity.

The People’s Republic of China consider the populace as a fundamental facet of what it terms “comprehensive national power”, featuring prominently within the Communist Party rhetoric and their strategic calculations[87]. The “masses” are viewed as both essential to, and responsible for, Chinese national security[88]. The mobilisation of civilians alongside the military is embodied in the Maoist concept of “the people’s war”, a philosophy still deeply engrained in modern Chinese culture, with a degree of potential application to many ex-Soviet countries also[89]. Therefore, the non-state-status, if you will, of RHA may be theoretically true, but to say that they have differing objectives, or are not advantageously concomitant, or even at the point of engagement and data extraction the two are culturally and strategically separable, is mistaken. Although perhaps not recognisable as a singular monolithic entity, this “non-traditional relationship” with the hacking fraternity has been proactively sought. Such freelance groups can mount tremendously sophisticated operations against foreign targets; intelligent, skilled and patriotic, overheads are kept low and they are easily disowned if indentified[90]. The information elicited may be extremely valuable and the economic and social damage caused substantial. It has been operationally prudent, sagacious even, for these governments to have such efforts deflected overseas, whilst forestalling domestic assaults.

Discovered in 2009, Gh0stNet provides a further example of state/non-state ambiguity[91]. The spying network infected high-value political and economic targets in 103 countries, infiltrating the networks of embassies, foreign ministries, NGOs, and government departments[92]. Spear-phishing emails targeted organisations with malicious attachments, which delivered the payload onto their system when opened. By leveraging Web 2.0 and cloud based technologies as mechanisms of command-and-control, Gh0stNet was designed to maintain influence over compromised machines, even if the infrastructure was taken down[93]. The malware would connect to Google groups, Twitter accounts, or Blogspot threads, to obtain the instructive domain name – if this server was removed, new IP addresses were reposted allowing the infiltration to continue[94]. The two-stage dropper would often instruct the installation of Gh0stRat, which allowed hackers to gain real-time control over computers, activating webcams and audio-recording to enable surveillance[95]. Gh0stNet’s exposure revealed an infrastructure largely based in China with some interesting twists: One of four control servers was located on Hainan Island, home to Lingshui Air Base, China’s signal-intelligence facility[96], two in and around Chengdu, a city dominated by the Triad mafia cartel[97], and the fourth was a centrally run government server[98]. This implied a degree of shared knowledge, collusion even, between the intelligence agencies, organised crime syndicates, and the Communist Party.

Social Engineering and Non-technical Vectors

One of the most renowned cyber-espionage cases, the breach of global aerospace, defence, and advanced technology company Lockheed Martin, is also an excellent example of social engineering. Although breached in 2011, the preparation for the attack stretches back far further, encompassing the infiltration of two additional companies prior, originating with the successful hack of a relatively small and unprotected recruitment company called Beyond[99]. Impersonating the Beyond webmaster, spear-phishing techniques targeted one of their clients; the network security company RSA, who produce the SecurID authentication token used by Lockheed Martin. This is a complex mechanism of two-factor authentication, utilising a cryptography algorithm which generates a random code at fixed intervals, used by companies wishing to introduce a strong layer of security to their networks[100]. The vector of infection was an email-attached Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which stated: “I forward this file to you for review”[101]. Upon opening the attachment a Flash exploit embedded in the spreadsheet launched on RSA’s network, utilising the W32/Poison.Ivy backdoor[102]. The payload gave a command-and-control server in Seoul, South Korea, remote access to the infected machines, enabling hackers to leapfrog into RSA’s network and access the cherished algorithm which underpinned SecurID[103]. In 2011, Lockheed Martin announced that a cyber attack had successfully bypassed their security systems and managed to gain access to “sensitive materials”[104]. Whilst the nature of the information compromised was never extrapolated upon, the following month the U.S. Government redefined casus belli for an act of war to include cyber attacks[105].

The Lockheed Martin case was remarkable due to its complexity, strategic nature, and intelligent use of both human and cyber exploits, yet some are notable due to their simplicity and utility of non-technical infection vectors. The 2008 Russian compromise of the Pentagon’s top secret network occurred by baiting techniques of scattering infected USB thumb-drives in government carparks, then simply waiting for staff to pick one up, take it into work, and connect to a secure network[106]. Other traditional, ‘non-cyber’ means of obtaining intelligence to socially engineer convincing cyber-espionage attacks include; Freedom of Information requests, pitching marketing services, conferences, conventions, tradeshows, exploiting collaborative research ventures, and, of course, open sources[107].

Dubbed Operation Aurora, the 2010 exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, employed crucial social engineering elements, compromising numerous U.S. corporations including Google, Yahoo, Symantec, Northrop Grumman, and Morgan Stanley[108]. Staff were sent messages supposedly from known colleagues which included bogus weblinks. Once clicked the malicious code launched, allowing hackers to piggyback from local machines into the entire network[109]. Whilst much of press coverage reported the infiltration of Chinese dissident gmail accounts, Dmitri Alperovitch of cyber investigation firm CrowdStrike, believes they accessed far more, claiming the Chinese are “hacking every company imaginable… stealing everything they need to capture business and market share”. The breach is widely considered a “watershed moment”, in so much as it demonstrated that private industry and commerce had become as important, if not more so, than military or government targets in global cyber-espionage efforts[110]. Today, the most besieged assets include; information and communications technologies,marine systems, aerospace/aeronautics, military, dual-use and clean technologies, advanced materials and manufacturing techniques, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and agricultural technologies[111].

Future Direction

Technological developments and the increasing number of internet facing systems have seen the enthusiastic adoption of cyber means to illicitly obtain vast libraries of sensitive data. The expansion of online hacker communities, the emergence of W3 black-markets trading in espionage tools, technical instruction, and stolen data, as well as the utility of Web 2.0, have seen the blurring of criminal and political motivations. Historically and culturally grounded factors have also distorted traditional Western notions of ‘state’ and ‘non-state’ actors, further confusing conceptions of what ‘state sponsorship’ entails. These dynamics, combined with the technically distributed, largely anonymous nature of attacks, have obscured attempts to precisely attribute responsibility for cyber-espionage offences.

Rightly considered one of the most advanced persistent threats to information security today, costing billions annually in lost innovation, research, development, and revenue, this paper draws attention to some of the inconsistencies, inaccuracies and (in)competencies associated with documenting and measuring the cost of cyber-espionage. However, whilst cost estimations may vary so wildly as to render them an almost redundant exercise, undeniably it will always be faster and cheaper to steal intellectual property, trade secrets, or acquisition information, than to fund research and development directly, or conduct business fairly and honestly. In line with the dialects of globalisation, late-modernity, and transnational liberal capitalism, we have seen economic competitiveness and national advantage seamlessly merge to the point one cannot be separated from the other. When considering espionage, not only are the motivations patent, the perpetrators determined, and the data losses gigantic, but the economic, social, and political ramifications are enormous also.

In our current climate of austerity measures, efficiency drives, and stagnant growth — alongside the emergence of new global powers and the scramble for finite world resources — a nation’s research, innovation, and economic competitiveness is as critical to guaranteeing the future security and prosperity of a country, more so even, than military strength alone. Certainly the anonymous and often surreptitious nature of cyberspace lends itself to espionage in ways perhaps not immediately compatible with warfare, where political oratory, drum beating, and flag flying are inherently part and parcel. As cyber-espionage continues along its steep incline, bolstering the technological and economic migration East, security analysts must reflect upon whether it is really warfare, or more likely economics, which will come to define the global distribution of wealth, resources, and political power. Given this, it is our appreciation of espionage, not necessarily warfare, in the Fifth Domain which is likely to better inform our understanding of these shifting relations. Indeed if, as John Dryden said; “war is the trade of kings”, then trade is certainly the king of war. If espionage is the crook that controls the king, then we start to appreciate the true nature of the hierarchy.

This analysis underscores how cyber-espionage is not always a matter of hugely complicated code silently pilfering data in the background of networks. Non-technical methods, social engineering techniques, and the efficacy of human exploits, are still tremendously important and must not be overlooked as cyber security hysteria grips academics, practitioners and policymakers on either side of the Atlantic. Espionage is nothing new, but the capability, persistence, and magnitude of the threat has changed forever, our responses must be commensurate but composed, effective not foolish. It is the nexus and interplay between the technological, economic, cultural, and geopolitical shifts which provide us with a more nuanced understanding of espionage today.

Given its restrictive parameters, this paper should by no means be viewed as a exhaustive account detailing every facet of cyber-espionage, but rather a cursory analysis of this novel yet increasingly ubiquitous threat. Analytical perspectives from political and social sciences have significant import to cyber-security and can afford us some pertinent insights. Combining these with comprehensive technical analysis from computer science, assessing core vulnerabilities, best-practise solutions, and rethinking architectural and software design is essential. This paper seeks to promote further multidisciplinary research within this rapidly developing field, bridging the knowledge-gap between technologists, academics, policy makers, and wider industry. Encouraging research driven, empirically informed, and theoretically conversant countermeasures, seeking to reduce cyber-espionage and, ultimately, bolster our information security.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

[1] Shipman, (1997)

[2] Clarke, (2010)

[3] NCIX, (2011:i-iii)

[4] Shipman, (1997:16)

[5] ODO, (2012); Gralla,.(2007:7)

[6] Stevens & Neumann, (2009:10)

[7] Hoffman, (2006:40)

[8] Berners-Lee, (2001)

[9] Bauman, (2000); Severs, (2012)

[10] IWS, (2012); Knight, (2003:15); Ahlgren, (2005); Edensor, (2001)

[11] Roudometof, (2005); Appadurai, (1990); Giddens, (1991)

[12] Wolfowitz in Alexander, (2012); Baumann, (2000)

[13] IWS, (2012)

[14] Alexander, (2012)

[15] ibid.

[16] Foryst, (2010)

[17] Rid, (2012:5-6)

[18] Cohen, (1972)

[19] Panetta, (2012); Gross, (2011)

[20] Clarke, (2010)

[21] Rid, (2012)

[22] Clausewitz, (1832)

[23] Rid, (2012)

[24] ibid.

[25] Albanesius, (2012)

[26] CrySyS Laboratory, (2012)

[27] Zetter, (2012)

[28] Gostev, (2012); Kindlund, (2012)

[29] CrySyS Laboratory, (2012)

[30] ibid.

[31] Kindlund, (2012)

[32] Lee, (2012)

[33] Erdbrink, (2012)

[34] Maass & Rajagopalan, (2011)

[35] NCIX, (2011:3)

[36] Symantec Corp., (2012)

[37] Alexander, (2012)

[38] McAffe Inc., (2012)

[39] Maass & Rajagopalan, (2011)

[40] Detica, (2012)

[41] Verizon, (2012)

[42] Rawnsley, (2011)

[43] Evans, (2012)

[44] Alexander, (2012)

[45] Clarke, (2011)

[46] Faber, (2012); NCIX, (2011:2-4)

[47] Verizon, (2012:51)

[48] Gorma,.(2012)

[49] Faber, (2012)

[50] ibid.

[51] ibid.

[52] ibid.

[53] Anuradha, (2011)

[54] Boomberg, (2011)

[55] Rogers et al. (2012)

[56] Vance, (2011)

[57] Gorman, (2012:28)

[58] Janis, (1972)

[59] Elgin et al. (2012)

[60] Wong, (2008)

[61] Lambert, (2012:8)

[62] ibid.

[63] Elgin et al. (2012:1-6)

[64] Clarke, (2011)

[65] Rasheed, (2009:4)

[66] NCIX, (2011:1)

[67] NCIX, (2011:1-5)

[68]Rid, cited in McGraw, (2012)

[69] Walton, (2008)

[70] Severs, (2012)

[71] Sageman et al. (2008:1347-1349)

[72] Villeneuve, (2010)

[73] Eli, (2010)

[74] Goldsmith & Wu, (2006:16-25)

[75] Sanderson & Fortin, (2001)

[76] cited in Steinkuehler, (2006:1)

[77] Jenny, (2008)

[78] Wiktorowicz, (2002); Severs, (2012)

[79]Suler, (2004)

[80] Turkle, (1995:226); Severs, (2012)

[81] Jones, (2006:104)

[82] Villeneuve, (2010); Richardson, (2006:21-36)

[83] Rid, (2012:20)

[84] ibid.; Edensor, (2001)

[85] Henderson, (2008)

[86] Walton, (2008)

[87] Henderson, (2008); Hutton, (2007)

[88] ibid.

[89] ibid.

[90] ibid.

[91] Glaister, (2009)

[92] Markoff, (2009)

[93] Villeneuve, (2010); Nagaraja, & Anderson, (2009)

[94] IWM, (2009)

[95] Markoff, (2009)

[96] Harvey, (2009); Hsiao, (2010); GS, (2011)

[97] Villeneuve, (2010); Nagaraja & Anderson, (2009)

[98] Akkad, (2012)

[99] Schneier, (2011b)

[100] RSA, (2012)

[101] Clarke, (2011); Schneier, (2011a); Hodge & Sherr, (2011)

[102] Schneier, (2011b); Peter, (2011)

[103] Oquendo, (2011)

[104] Wolf, (2011); Lockheed Martin, (2011)

[105] Sanger & Bumiller, (2011)

[106] Mello, (2010)

[107] NCIX, (2011:2-7)

[108] Paul, (2010); Naraine, (2010)

[109] Kurtz, (2010)

[110] Faber, (2012)

[111] NCIX, (2011:1)

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