Cash The Real Cyber Driver

2011 saw a marked increase in the number of external web based cyber attacks.  Whilst the likes of wikileaks and Anonymous were driven mainly through ideals away from cash, I believe the main driver for complex command and control cyber attacks is indeed monetary.

As consumerization becomes internet driven and everything from smartphones, fridges and home appliances become connected, the attack vectors for a malicious user become larger.  There are more things to aim at and quite possibly they are less well protected.  As more people become switched on to decent speed broadband, more shopping, banking and general data transfer will occur online.

This, in addition to the general enterprise and SCADA style attacks that over the last 15 years continue develop in sophistication, the cyber criminal has a multitude of angles to attack from.

Aside from the hackitivism claims of recent months, the main driver for the cyber criminal is cash.  Whilst low level benign phishing attacks are now responsibly easy to spot and avoid, even for the occasional internet user, advanced command and control style attacks will become less easy to spot, prevent and avoid.

Organised crime is just that - highly organised.  This can lead to attacks that are sophisticated, operating at varies different levels of food chain from hardware (thinking smartphones), social engineering (fraud, deception) through to malicious software planted, installed and distributed on to users' machines, often originating from multiple proxied sources, spread across many different control centres.  Not only does the increased level of sophistication become more different to track and identify, it also increases the potential rewards for the criminals behind it.

As users and organisations become increasingly dependent on the internet and the continually connected landscape to perform their job and partake in general everyday activities, the increase in cyber attacks for a direct monetary reward I believe will increase.

Today it is quite common for your landline to be rung by an auto-dialer which is basically performing a reverse-the-charges call.  The result, if not subtly prevented by the 1 second of dial tone before the dialer connects to a real person is noticed, will result in a charge for the person being called.

This basic style of attack is now quite common in many smartphone apps which result in the mobile device either sending an SMS or dialing out to a foreign location resulting in a monetary transfer unknown to the victim.

As the rewards become higher, the sophistication of online monetary driven attacks will increase, with iterative development and continual morphing and enhancement.

(Simon Moffatt)