Is Your Enterprise Prepared for a Nation State Attack?

“If you are connected to the internet, you are vulnerable to determined nation-state attackers.”
– NSA Deputy Director, Richard Ledgett, October 2015

Nation-state attacks are on the rise, and a recent report states that most organizations are not cyber ready to identify or deter a serious attack.

Foreign agent attack or nation-state attacks are cyber espionage on a global scale. Such attacks are a primary threat for organizations and enterprises concerned about protecting their infrastructure and preventing the acquisition of intelligence assets.

The coming year will see a marked increase in nation-state hacks. In 2015, United States research, university, and governmental agencies suffered serious, sustained nation-state attacks, primarily from the Chinese, but also from other groups around the globe.

No longer conducted to spotlight attention on the security foibles of major companies, nation-state, and criminal enterprise, stealth attacks now open doors in vulnerable networks for future use.

Other differences between nation-state and criminal or individual hacks include:

  • Criminal groups target high-value data that is easily sold.
  • Nation-state hackers target information that offers a competitive, strategic advantage to their country, often in the form of military intelligence and research data.
  • Foreign-sponsored groups may seek to disrupt or disable infrastructure services such as power, commerce, or transportation systems.
  • The modes and methods of infecting phones and computers differ. Nation-state players may engage or meet with company representatives in order to infect mobile devices. Portable interception devices can capture critical information from targets while traveling.
  • Criminal hacking groups behave like common criminals—they go after the easiest targets. Possibly the biggest differentiator of a nation-state hack is its persistent, focused activity against a specific target.

A report from the Ponemon Institute offers critical findings on the current status of cyber defense against nation-state attacks in American organizations.

Readiness & View of Threat

Study authors surveyed more than 600 IT specialists responsible for organizational readiness to cyber attack. The sobering results of the inquiry underscore what is already known—American industry is unprepared for cyber intrusion and attack by a nation-state groups.

The study sought to assess attitudes toward vulnerability, sufficiency of defense, perceptions about attack modes, and current strategies around nation-state attacks. Key findings include:

  • Attack is likely, and enterprise is vulnerable: Within the next five years, most respondents believed their company could sustain a nation-state attack. Only 17 percent believe an attack is imminent. These beliefs are based on “gut feel,” as well as the current geopolitical climate, more frequent discovery of serious cyber intrusion within American companies, and the overall lack of a prominent national cyber security strategy.
  • Protective technology and strategy is not in place: The report notes that 75 percent of organizations believe they do not have sufficient strategy, or tech, to identify, prevent, or mitigate a nation-state attack. American intellectual property is at risk.
  • Waiting for attack: More than 80 percent of responding IT professionals believe nation-state actors are actively seeking network gaps to exfiltrate information.

IT professionals and security agencies believe that cyber attacks on American interests by nation-state actors are already taking place. Until companies and other organizations maintain a high level of cyber and network preparedness, we are all at risk.

If you have concerns about business continuity and cyber threats, speak with an experienced data security organization.