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State sponsored Cyber Warfare

  • Context (IE): Large amounts of data from Chinese cybersecurity company have been leaked online.
  • The company (I-Soon) was involved in collecting important digital information at home and abroad, covering countries such as India, Nigeria, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.
  • I-Soon, a Shanghai-based company, is thought to be among many private contractors aiding the Chinese state.
  • These contractors assist in intelligence-gathering, hacking, and other surveillance activities.
  • The leaks confirm the significance of the Chinese state’s cyber intelligence and cybersecurity apparatus.
  • This is not the first time; in 2020, the Indian Express investigation found a Shenzhen-based company linked to the Chinese government monitoring over 10,000 Indian individuals and organisations.

What’s in the leaked data?

  • One spreadsheet listed 80 overseas targets successfully breached by iSoon hackers. This included,
    • 95.2 gigabytes of immigration data from India.
    • 3-terabyte collection of call logs from South Korea’s LG U Plus telecom provider.
    • 459GB of road-mapping data from Taiwan was listed.
    • Within China, the targets seemed to include ethnicities and dissidents in parts of China that have seen significant anti-government protests (Uyghur Muslims).
  • The information also reveals the hacking tools used to find identities on social media platforms and access emails.
    • I-Soon had the capability to hack X (Twitter) accounts, even with two-factor authentication.
    • Devices resembling batteries were used to attack Wi-Fi networks.

State-sponsored Cyber Warfare

  • It is different from domestic cyber terrorism in that it is originated by a foreign government that has either directly planned and executed the cyber-attack or paid someone or some group to execute the attack.
  • Examples:
    • Russia meddling with the U.S. election.
    • Stuxnet, a malicious worm, was a joint American/Israeli cyberweapon targeting Iranian nuclear systems.

Why do Countries involve in cyber warfare?

  • Countries lack other means of attacking enemies, and it’s cheaper than conventional warfare.
    • Many nations can’t afford an expensive army to fight abroad, so they use cyber-attacks from within their borders.
  • To compromise the national security of other countries by stealing sensitive national security information, military secrets, and critical infrastructure data.
  • To create Economic losses: Attacks on key industries and critical infrastructure can result in economic losses.
    • For instance, the disruption of energy or financial systems can have severe economic consequences.
  • Cyberattacks can be used to manipulate public opinion, influence elections, and undermine political stability. Disinformation campaigns and hacking can have far-reaching political implications.
  • To undermine a Nation’s Sovereignty: A major advantage is that cyber-attacks make the attacking country appear strong, both domestically and internationally, and the victim country weak. Also, it compromises the nation’s ability to govern and protect its citizens.

Steps for Preventing State Sponsored Cyber Warfare

  • Strengthen cybersecurity defences: Countries should invest in robust cybersecurity defences, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption technologies.
  • Develop and enforce strong cyber laws that make it illegal to engage in cyber warfare or other malicious activities online. These laws should be enforced rigorously and uniformly across all sectors.
  • Increase international cooperation: Cyber-attacks are often cross-border in nature, so Countries should share data about threats and attacks and coordinate their efforts to respond together.
  • Educate the public and raise awareness to take measures to protect themselves online. This includes using strong passwords, using current software, etc.,
  • Countries should promote a culture of responsibility and accountability for cyber behaviour. This can be accomplished through awareness and education programs.
  • Promote international norms and standards for behaviour in cyberspace. This will reduce the risk of misunderstandings and escalation.
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