What Is Cybersecurity and Why You Should Care

Cybersecurity entails protecting systems and information from cyber threats. There are various cyber threats such as cyber terrorism, cyber espionage, and cyber warfare among others. Cybersecurity, in most cases, targets secrets of the military, political or infrastructural assets of people or a nation. This means that each government should prioritize cybersecurity as a critical part of its security strategy. Citing the US federal government, since 2010, it has allocated over $13 billion towards cybersecurity.

Cyberspace and its basic infrastructure are susceptible various risks emanating from cyber threats and hazards and physical threats. Cyber actors, who are either individuals or nations have taken advantage of this issue so as to exploit and steal information as well as money so as to destroy, threaten or disrupt delivery of most essential services. There are various traditional crimes that are now being perpetrated via cyberspace such as child exploitation conspiracies, child pornography, financial and banking fraud, intellectual property violations, which have economic and human consequences.

Types of cybersecurity

  1. Cyber espionage

This is the practice of using IT to get secret information devoid of permission from the holders or owner. This type of cybersecurity is in most cases used to access economic, strategic, military, or political advantage. This practice is usually done through malware and cracking techniques.

  1. Cyber warfare

This entails nations making use of information technology (IT) to infiltrate into another nation’s networks with intent of causing disruption or damage. Cyber warfare has been recognized as the fifth type of warfare in the US as well as other countries after land, sea, air and space. These attacks are normally effected by hackers who have advanced training in manipulating how computer networks function with the support of the nations they are working for. Instead of fully shutting down a certain targeted networks, cyber warfare would interrupt networks for the sake compromising essential data, impairing infrastructural services like medical and transport services, interrupting commerce and degrading communications.

  1. Cyber terrorism

This is a disorderly use of IT by groups associated with terrorism attacks. They use this method to spearhead their political and ideological agenda. The form used in this case is that of attacks on computer systems, networks as well as telecommunication infrastructures.

 

Systems at risk of cybersecurity

There are various government, organizations and institutions that are at risk of attack from cybersecurity. Some of these systems are;

  • Finance systems
  • Aviation industry
  • Government
  • Consumer devices
  • Medical systems
  • Industrial equipment
  • Automobiles

Why you should care about cybersecurity

With the continuous advancement of technology in the world, there is need to care about cybersecurity. Here are some of the reasons why you should care

  1. Hacking

Hacking, which in most cases is motivated by hacktivism has increased recently. This is bound to go higher in the near future with people and nations getting more advanced technologies to gain access to computers and other digital platforms without being noticed. This means that systems that are vulnerable to hacking remain threaten. Government information and secrets can easily be hacked, regardless of their status. Worth noting is the fact social media has been a huge target for hackers. This is because they can easily be accessed and used for the benefit of the hacker at any given time.

  1. Cyberwars

There is need to care about cybersecurity in due cyberwars. With each nation playing its part in ensuring that it is technologically advanced than the other, there is a high chance that cyberwar would occur. Information technology experts are being encouraged by various nations, who have even gone further to support these individuals financially. This would lead to countries spying on each or hacking into each other’s secret documents for their own benefits, leading to retaliation.

  1. Unrecoverable information and monies

You need to care about Cybersecurity because once the information has been stolen from your computer or digital platform, you might never be able to recover it again. This information will be used to the benefit of the hackers at your expense. In the end, they might demand for ransom so as not to use the information. In addition, cybersecurity has led to hacking of banks and personal bank accounts where millions of money is withdrawn without their consent and knowledge. These monies are never recovered leaving the affected organizations or individuals with financial challenges.

 


Most Famous Hacks in History

Hacking in computer networking can be defined as any kind of technical effort to influence typical behavior of connected systems and network connections. There have been many hacking activities in history in a way to get information that the hacker is not permitted to. Here are some of the most famous hacks in history chronologically.

Markus Hess hacks US military

Markus Hess, a German citizen was recruited in the 1980’s by KGB so as to spy and hack on for the soviets. He was mandated with getting access to US military computers so as to get classified information. Based at German’s University of Bremen, Mr. Hess made use of German Datex-P network through transatlantic cable or satellite link to Tymnet International Gateway. He managed to attack over 400 computers belonging to US military plus those at based at Military installations in Japan and Germany. This also included machines based at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts as well as Pentagon’s OPTMIS database.

Hess hacking activity was ultimately discovered by Clifford Stoll who was a systems administrator of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), a computer center based in California. He was sentenced for one to three years imprisonment after being found guilty of espionage.

Robert Morris hacks the internet

Robert Morris, a Cornell University graduate student created the first internet worm in 1988. He explained that he created this worm so that it could give him an idea of how big the web was and not for damage purposes. As a way of concealing this worm’s origin at Cornell University, Robert Morris unconfined it from MIT, releasing it to feat vulnerabilities in finger, rsh/rexec and Unix sendmail. A flaw in the design however triggered the worm to reproduce at higher levels than as intended by Morris. This caused overloading of systems hence causing momentous damage. He was later discovered as the main source of the worm and was sentenced to three years of probation, fined $10,500, and 400 hours of community service. This conviction was under the Computer Fraud Abuse Act enacted in 1990.

Vladmir Levin hacks Citibank

Vladmir Levin is considered as a Russian crime ring leader and is said to have taken part in one of the most high profile financially motivated hacking. This was done so as to get access to Citibank network accounts. The incidence witnessed in 1995 saw him steal millions of dollars from Citibank accounts.

Levin, who by the time was working as part of the crime group used a computer located in London to access a list of customers, codes and passwords that enabled him to access the accounts as many times as possible over a certain period. This saw him transfer close to $3.7 million to the groups organizations illegally. The FBI caught up with him in 1998, tried, convicted and sentenced to three years. Levin was also instructed to pay $240,015 to Citibank in restitution.

Jonathan James hacks NASA

At 16 years, James Jonathan also known as c0mrade, in 1999, hacked Marshall Space   Flight center based in Huntsville, Alabama. This saw him download proprietary software meant for this International Space station. This software played a huge role in this station’s daily activities for it supported the physical environment as well as critical control of temperature and humidity for living in space.

According to NASA offcials, the documents stolen by James were valued at $1.7 million. This caused the station to close down its computer systems for a period of three weeks, costing them approximately $41,000 to fix.

Adriano Lamo hacks the NYT

Adrian Lamo, a 19 year old, hacked into New York Times internal network in 2002 and accessed various sensitive records such as broad database of op-ed writers and editors that had been used by the paper previously. These records had names and in some cases home addresses, phone numbers as well as payment history on contributors like James Baker who is a former Secretary of State, James Carville who was a Democratic Strategist and Robert Redford, a renowned actor. He added his name on the ‘experts’ list and listed his ‘expertise’ as ‘Computer hacking, Communication intelligence, national security’

Gary McKinnon hack into the US military

Gary McKinnon, also known as Solo by his handle name was a Scottish hacker who was indicted of hacking into various computers meant for US military in 2001 and 2002. It is alleged that he wanted to establish if the government was aware of UFOs. The damage, according to Military officials included deletion of precarious files from their operating systems, leading to a shutdown of over 2000 computers at the US Army’s Military District in Washington for 24 hours. It is also said that McKinnon deleted weapon logs meant for Earle Naval Weapons Station. The cleanup is believed to have cost over $700,000, this is according to the officials.

Anonymous hacks HB Gary

Antisec group Anonymous, in 2011 got angry at Aaron Barr who was HB Gary Federal CEO by then, indicated to plans to disclose the real identities of various Anonymous members during the security B-sides conference. As a way of retaliation, the Anonymous group conceded the internal systems HB Gary Federal as well as its sister firm HB Gary Inc. the Antisec group managed to copy and make public various documents from HB Gary including emails. This is said to be one way in which Anonymous used to bring ‘hacktivism’ to the limelight of mainstream media.

Hacking of News of the World

This hacking scandal was done by employees of News of the World, a British paper who hacked into various phones of politicians, celebrities as well as murder victims as a way of pursuing stories for the organization. An investigation dating back to 2002 established that the employees who are also reporters with this tabloid hacked various voicemail accounts of celebrities like actress Sienna Miller, model Elle McPherson and other members from Britain’s Royal Family. In the wake of this hacking scandal, the paper, which was 168 years old by then was eventually shuttered.


Is Bitcoin Legal or Not?

Bitcoin falls in the developing type of money referred to as Cryptocurrency. It is a type of digital currency that is held electronically. This form of currency cannot be controlled, neither is it printed like other forms of currency such as euros and dollars.

Bitcoins are produced by people from various parts of the world, and are increasingly being incorporated in the modern world by online businesses and running computers and other gadgets that use software that unravel mathematical related problems.

Brief history of Bitcoin

Satoshi Nakamoto in November 2008 came up with an idea of bitcoin by releasing a paper to a mailing list for cryptography. This was a nine page document which laid down the vision for a systematic distributed digital money. The first version was released in January 2009 by Nakamoto who mined 50 bitcoins for a start. This was a major breakthrough in the development of cryptography.

Legality of Bitcoin

This is a huge subject of discussion all over the globe with interests from various law enforcement agencies, tax regulators, tax authority. This is attested to the fact that these agencies are trying to understand how Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency as a whole fits into their current frameworks.

The legal status of bitcoin vary significantly from one country to the other, who you are and what you intend to do or what you are doing with this digital coin. It has demonstrated to be a prickly issue especially for law enforcers and regulators, who have beset the digital currency to establish ways to have its use controlled. Nevertheless, it is still too early to predict the outcome, basing on the fact that most legal authorities are facing huge challenges trying to understand the digital money system. This makes it difficult to even come up with laws around it.

Legal concerns of Bitcoin

As earlier indicated, the legality of this digital money system is based on the country you are in or what you are doing with it. This simply means that there are some countries that have no legal issues with this coin hence have allowed its use, while there are some countries that has banned its use.

Most government institutions and agencies are progressively worried about the repercussions of bitcoin. This is based on the fact that it can easily be used without being noticed. This, according to these government agencies implies that there are high chances of money laundering, while its decentralized nature is of huge concern.

In April 2012, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) underlined its fears about this coin and other centralized digital currencies like WebMoney and eGold. These concerns indicated that as much as the exchanges based in US are regulated, it might not be possible to regulate offshore services hence paving way for criminals to use it for illegal activities without trace.

Bitcoin regulators

There are specific regulators of this coin basing on the country you are in. however, there are notable institutions and agencies that are globally known to regulate it. Some of these institutions are;

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, an agency in the Treasury Department in the US, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) that deals with financial derivatives though it has not started the regulations, Security and Exchange Commission of the US though it has not issued any solid regulations regarding virtual currencies. Other notable regulators are SEC’s Legislative Branch, US states and private sector companies such as banks.

Conclusion

The legality of bitcoin is still a huge bone of contention all over the world. There are countries that have no legal issues with it, while there are some that have banned it. Its use depends with where you are.

 


History of WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks is a non-profit international organization whose main role is to publish secret information, classified media from unknown sources, and news leaks among other information across the world. WikiLeaks website wikileaks.org was started in 2006 by Sunshine Press organization in Iceland. To date it asserts 10 million documents database in less than 10 years since it was launched.

Who founded WikiLeaks?

Julian Assange is widely known as the founder of WikiLeaks back in 2006. He is labelled as the founder, director and editor in chief of this website that has received so much publicity since its inception. Julian Assange is described as an internet activist, computer programmer as well as a hacker. He is also known as the ‘heart and soul of WikiLeaks, original coder, financier, spokesperson, and philosopher among many other titles. Assange is the popularly known public figure of this website, though there are other people such as joseph Farell, Sarah Harrison and Kristinn Hrafnsson who have publicly been publicly acknowledged as Assange associates. It is worth noting that Ingi Ragnar Ingason is said to be a member of Sunshine Press Productions together with Harrison and Assange.

Originally, WikiLeaks was founded with a ‘wiki’ mutual publication system, was later terminated in May 2010. Its initial founders and volunteers were at some point labelled as a mixture of Asian revolutionists, mathematicians, journalists, as well as start-up company technologists from Europe, United States, Taiwan, Australia and South Africa. It is recorded that as of June 2009, wikileaks.org had over 1200 volunteers registered with them. Worth noting is that Wikipedia and WikiLeaks are not associated despite some prevalent confusion that has seen most web users affiliate the two.

Why was WikiLeaks founded?

This is a question that most website users have asked themselves with no concrete answer. However, according to wikileaks.org, the goal for its establishment is to offer essential information and news to the people. WikiLeaks prides itself with some important activities aimed at publishing original source material together with their news stories so that historians and readers can be able to see the truth and evidence.

Whistleblowers and Journalists are in most cases prosecuted when they email classified and sensitive documents. This is one of the other reasons why WikiLeaks was established. This is attributed to the secure, innovative and anonymous online ‘drop box’ method on its website where journalists and whistleblowers leak information to journalists and other volunteers working for WikiLeaks without being noticed.

Administration of WikiLeaks

In an interview in January 2010, it was revealed that the WikiLeaks team had five people who were working on a full-time basis, and about 800 more people who occasionally worked for the organization, though none of them were compensated. This organization does not have a specific location or headquarters. WikiLeaks authorized activism and news site known as WikiLeaks Central in November 2010. This was started and administered by Heather Marsh who was the editor and oversaw over 70 plus volunteers and writers. Marsh however resigned as chief editor, domain holder and administrator of WikiLeaks Central on Thursday 8th March, 2012.

WikiLeaks funding

As earlier indicated, WikiLeaks was established on the basis of being a nonprofit organization, largely funded by volunteers. This has seen it depend fully on public donations. The main financing methods used entail online payment services and convectional bank transfers. Annual expenses for WikiLeaks which are mainly meant for dealing with bureaucracy and servers are approximated at €200,000. This figure might go higher to around €600,000 if the volunteers who have dedicated their time to this organization are to be paid.

WikiLeaks has lawyers who handle its legal issues. These lawyers work on pro bono basis more often. In the event where some legal cases require finances, some media organizations have donated legal aid to enhance the processes. As much as the main source of revenue is through donations, lately this organization has considered other various options like auctioning where early access of documents is done. This saw the organization auction items online on sites like eBay so as to raise funds in 2011.

Common leaks by WikiLeaks

2007-2010

In December 2007, WikiLeaks posted the manual used by the US Army soldiers when handling prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In March 2008, the organization posted internal documents meant for the Church of Scientology. In September 2008, private emails from Sarah Palin’s yahoo email account were posted and in November 2008, it posted names as well as addressed of people who the organization claimed were part of the far-right British National Party.

In November 2009, over 500,000 messages that are claimed to have been sent in the wake of the September 11th 2001 attacks. On 5th April 2010, a military classified video was posted by WikiLeaks which showed a US Apache helicopter that fired and killed various Iraqi civilians and two journalists. This saw Chelsea Manning detained in May 2010 for apparently leaking US military combat video.

On 25th July 2010, WikiLeaks posted over 90,000 classified documents that were related to Afghanistan war. These documents trace the pursuit of Osama bin Laden by the US military leading to Afghan civilians’ death. On 22nd October 2010, over 400,000 Iraqi war classified documents were published, and on 28th November 2010, over 250,000 US State Department cables are leaked dating back to 1966.

2011 to 2017

24th April 2011 over 800 classified documents for US Military obtained by WikiLeaks expose information on alleged terror undertakings of Al Qaeda in Guantanamo Bay. 2nd September, 2011more than 250,000 unredacted archives of US diplomatic cables are leaked. 26th February 2012, five million emails are released from Private intelligence company-Stratfor. July 5th 2012, WikiLeaks started publishing 2.4 million emails obtained from Syrian government ministries, politicians and companies from 2006.

July 22nd 2016, over 20,000 emails are released from staffers of Democratic national Committee which showed how the committee favored Hillary Clinton during presidential primaries in US over Bernie Sanders. On 7th October 2016, over 2,000 emails hacked from John Podesta’s (Clinton’s campaign chairman) are published.

Conclusion

The future of WikiLeaks is yet to be known having come under attack from domain hosting. Worth noting is that there over 1,000 sites that mirror WikiLeaks’ content. The fact that it has made it available possible to download its files containing archive of materials released since its launch to date makes it challenging to bring it down.

 


History of Anonymous

We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us. This is the slogan that this group uses to identify with itself

Anonymous is a network of hackers, who are also referred to as hacktivists (Hacker activists) who seek to have change in the status quo. This group is against any kind of government surveillance and censorship in any way. Little is said about this groups origin, but it has been reported that it started in 2003 when random users teamed up to discuss oppression, anarchy as well as state of issues on 4Chan image boards.

In the year 2006, they came into the limelight after infiltrating Habbo-a Finnish social networking hub as well as blocking various parts of their website. Initial reports had indicated that the website was profiling certain users and abusing them racially, hence the need to strike back and revenge by the Anonymous group. This saw the group make a name for themselves, however, it took them around two years before they were recognized by people who were not part of 4Chan circles.

Who are Anonymous and how big are they?

One needs to know that this is not an organization but rather an ideology. It all started as simple 4Chan message aboard and has since become an international cause for advocacy which has seen its growth to date.

The group has been rebuked as cyber terrorists and at the same time hailed as heroes by advocacy groups. This saw it named by Time Magazine among the most influential people in the world in 2012.

The fact that Anonymous is universal, they can meet anywhere at any given time. They do not have a company location, no known agenda etc. This has helped them to remain private all through, hence it opens up avenues for entities to claim attacks and other hacktivisim in their name.

The hacking of the Church of Scientology

In 2008, Anonymous made headlines all over the world by releasing a horrid video proclaiming war on this church. The video that was circulated all over insinuated that the Church of Scientology has for years been exploiting its faithful members, hence deserved to be shamed and brought down. The video had the following caption; “For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind—and for our own enjoyment—we shall proceed to expel you from the Internet.” This saw several waves of in-person and series of DDoS attacks on the church. Thousands of protestors in Guy Fawkes masks marched to Church of Scientology centers around the globe, damning its reputation as well as damages believed to be in millions. Their website was severely attacked and its credibility badly affected.

Operation Avenge Assange

The US government tried to shut down Wikileaks in 2010 by forcing other sites like MasterCard, Amazon, PayPal etc to desist from offering their services on Wikileaks. This was meant to help the government block off access to funds owned by this site. In retaliation, the Anonymous group launched ‘Operation Avenge Assange’ which saw them bring down MasterCard, Amazon, PayPal temporarily. According to PayPal, the company suffered damages costing around $5.5 million.

Fighting Oppression

The Anonymous group is also known to fight oppression and give back to the oppressed. This was witnessed in Tunisia when the group launched DDoS attacks on various government websites. This was aimed in supporting a revolution that was led by Arab Spring. In so doing, they helped empower Tunisians by giving them relevant information and proper tools that they used to hack the government. One notable tool was Tor browser. This saw enormous government uprising that later saw the fall of the dictatorial regime.

Egypt also faced the wrath of the anonymous where it played a vital role in restoring some parts of the internet that had been bowdlerized by the government. It also hacked and brought down many government websites, which remained offline for the period the then president Hosni Mubarak was in power. After the president’s resignation, the websites were restored.

Another worth noting attack claimed to have been carried out by Anonymous is the hacking of Westboro Baptist Church where the group released numbers, names, home addresses, names etc of its members.


Cyber Attacks and Russia: Should We Be Afraid?

Cyberattack which is also referred to as Computer Network Attack is an intended manipulation of computer networks, systems and technology dependent enterprises. These attacks make us of malevolent codes to tamper with computer data, code, or logic. This leads to disruptive consequences which, if not detected in advance can easily comprise data. Such attacks lead to cybercrimes like identity and information theft.

Cyberattacks have arrays of consequences such as stolen hardware, system infiltration, password sniffing, and breach of access, identify theft, extortion, fraud, website defacement, instant messaging abuse, unauthorized access, intellectual property theft among others.

Cyberattacks and Russia

There have been many cases of cyberattacks all over the world. Some of these cases have been owned up by various people while others have been left unidentified. Russia has been blamed as extensive as initially thought of by various state organs for cyberattacks. This has been hastened by the recent allegations of election related cyberattacks in the US.  Here are some of the notable cyberattacks associated with Russia.

Cyberattacks on Estonia in 2007

There were a sequences of cyberattacks that swamped Estonia from 27th April, 2007. These attacks swamped various websites in Estonia belonging to the parliament, organizations, banks, newspapers, ministries among others. This happened amid a disagreement with Russia on the transfer of Bronze Soldier of Tallin and war graves. However, Jaak Aaviskoo, the then Defence Minister in Estonia said that he did not have any evidence linking the Russian Government to the cyberattacks.

Germany

There was a cybertheft incidence in German in 2015 where files belonging to the Parliamentary Committee that was investigating NSA spying scandal were lost. A high ranking security official in Germany stated that there were high chances that these files were stolen by Russian hackers. Late 2016 also saw the President of Bundesnachrichtedienst Bruno Kahl warn of misinformation and data breaches campaigns driven by Russia.

Georgia

Georgia witnessed cyberattacks in 2008, where various government, organizational and institutional websites were hacked into. A US based independent research institute known as US Cyber Consequences Unit stated that these attacks had ‘little or no direct involvement from Russian military or Government’. According to this institute, some of these attacks started from multiple users of PCs in Latvia, Ukraine and Russia. The users were taking part in the cyberattacks because they were supporters of Russia during the South Ossetia war in 2008.

Ukraine

Snake or ‘Ouroboros’, a Russian cyber weapon is said to have caused damage in March 2014 on various Government systems in Ukraine. The Russian APT Fancy Bear is said to have used Android Malware between 2014 and 2016 targeting Ukraine’s Army Rocket Forces and Artillery. This is according to CrowdStrike. The hackers distributed a version of an Android app which was infected with ‘Snake’ to regulate targeting data. This application which was being used by the Ukrainian officers is believed to have been filled with X-Agent spyware and later posted on military forums online. The report by CrowdStrike claim that the attack was a successful one basing on the fact that over 80 percent of Ukrainian D-30 Howitzers were wrecked. This is said to be the highest percentage of artillery pieces loss in any army. These cyberattacks left over 200,000 people with no power on temporary basis. It is strongly believed that the Russian Government or a Sandworm-a hacking group based in Russia were responsible for the malware attack on power and mining companies in Ukraine.

United States

CNN in April 2015 reported that the US government systems had been hacked by Russsian hackers. This was termed as a sophisticated attack according to Secret Service, FBI and US Intelligence systems that had seen the hackers’ access computers in sensitive areas of the White House. The US State Department hacking by the Russian Government was referred to as the ‘worst ever’ cyberattack according to Intelligence, congressional officials and the Federal Law enforcement.

We all remember the release of Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails via DC Leaks website on 30th December, 2016. This, according to Us Intelligence services and private sector analysts originated from Russia. It is worth noting that in December 2016, Democratic and Republican senators of US Armed Services Committee raised concerns over Russia’s possible influence of the presidential election. They called for a special select committee that was tasked with investigating this possible cyberattack.

Norway

Norway is the latest victim of cyberattack from Russia in 2017. According to reports by the Norwegian intelligence, the army, foreign ministry and various institutions were targeted by a group alleged to have links with Russian authorities. The APT 29, was identified by Oslo as the hacking group, which has already hit the limelight as having interfered with the 2016 presidential election in the US. In this cyberwar, around nine email accounts had been identified for hacking. This was referred to as Spear Phishing or malicious emails.

Should we be scared of Russia’s cyberattacks?

For decades, developed nations and superpowers were able to determine in advance who their enemies were and what they were capable of doing. This was done through the spy satellites and other mechanisms that they had put in place. In the current world, we have to accept that cyberattacks exist in the dark. Most potent tools by these nations cannot even be demonstrated as it was before. This is due to fear that the hackers might render them inert. It is evident that we might have a rough idea of what each country is capable of in the event a war or attack, however, there is no reliable source or picture that can be used to determine the kind of war that would be fought by computers. Such uncertainty, maybe, might be the one keeping us safe to date.

It is believed that Russians are forced to work harder and smarter in every sector, including the computer field, hence termed as good ‘hackers’. However, this is attested to the fact that you can easily get away with this cyberattack crime if you know what you are doing.