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The Stealth War on the United States

Politics / Cyber War Jul 23, 2015 - 09:41 PM GMT

By: Investment_U

Politics

Sean Brodrick writes: Late last month, Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) suffered the most catastrophic attack EVER on a U.S.-based company.

It was so epic in scale that analysts are calling it an act of war.

More details are coming out. And it may just be the tip of the iceberg.


It all started when Sony announced that it would release a comedic film on Christmas Day called The Interview. In it, Seth Rogan and James Franco play hapless American TV entertainers sent to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

While I find the idea funny, North Korea blasted the film as "undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war" in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June.

Shortly thereafter, hackers shut down Sony's systems and released massive amounts of damaging data from Sony’s files.

The hack-attack infected Sony’s systems with a rare data-wiping virus. The malware overrode all data on computer hard drives. In effect, the computers were turned into paperweights.

Why Is This Cyberwarfare?

NATO defines acts of cyberwar as “a cyber operation, whether offensive or defensive, that is reasonably expected to cause injury or death to persons or damage or destruction to objects.”

And in press reports, Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist and CEO of the cybersecurity firm Immunity, said the attack on Sony definitely should be viewed as an act of war.

"We need to change the way we think about cyberattacks," Aitel is quoted as saying. “In many cases, these aren’t 'crimes' - they’re acts of war.”

“A non-kinetic attack (i.e., destructive malware, destructive computer network attack) that causes just as much damage as a kinetic attack (i.e., a missile or bomb) should be viewed at the same level of urgency."

Aitel went on to add: “What would we have done if they’d blown up the buildings at Sony Pictures but not caused any casualties? That is the context these attacks need to be put in."

So how do we know the North Koreans are behind the attacks on Sony?

We don’t. But their fingerprints are all over it.

  • The malware reportedly bore traces of Korean language packs. The FBI reports some of the software was compiled in Korean.
  • It resembled software deployed during previous attacks against South Korean targets.
  • It’s also very much like malware used against oil producer Saudi Aramco. That attack knocked out around 30,000 computers.

What Got Stolen

Along with wiping computer hard drives at Sony, hackers stole movie scripts - even entire films - as well as embarrassing internal emails and financial information.

  • Huge lists of Social Security numbers - 1.1 million of them - were scattered to the winds.
  • Employee documents containing passwords, credit card numbers and employee medical histories were data-dumped.
  • More than 100 terabytes of data were stolen. That's equivalent to about 50,000 full-length HD movies. Leaked movies included not-yet released films such as the Annie remake and the Brad Pit blockbuster Fury.
  • Sony studio head Amy Pascal called Angelina Jolie “a spoiled brat” and labeled Leonardo DiCaprio “despicable” in email exchanges. Another Sony exec called comedian Kevin Hart “a whore.”

The bottom line, say Hollywood watchers, is that heads will roll in Sony’s executive suite due to this data breach.

And the hackers aren't done with Sony. On Tuesday, they emailed out a warning, threatening theaters that showed The Interview. And the terrorists won. Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment have all decided against showing the film. And on Wednesday, Sony announced it has canceled the theatrical release of The Interview.

In response to the attack on Sony, earlier this month, FBI sent a confidential “flash” warning to U.S. corporations that they should brace for cyberattacks that are even more destructive. The FBI warning gave advice on how to respond to a malware attack.

Harbingers of Destruction

Some experts think the fuse for the next attack is already lit.

In press reports, Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer with security software maker Trend Micro, explained why.

“I believe the coordinated cyberattack with destructive payloads against a corporation in the U.S. represents a watershed event. Geopolitics now serve as harbingers for destructive cyberattacks.”

This North Korean attack is just the latest in country-based attacks with specific themes. Cybercrime from China has been associated with stealing secrets from U.S. companies. Crime syndicates in Russia focus on pilfering credit card numbers.

How Can We Respond to Cyberwar?

America knows how to respond to a conventional attack - we bomb ‘em back to the Stone Age. But what do you do when the attack is in cyberspace?

Immunity CEO Aitel says that “there should at least be firm diplomatic repercussions for these types of attacks.”

Responses could include our own cyberattacks. The problem is we run the risk of increasing the cyber-threat if we lash out blindly.

Protect and Profit

I spoke about cybersecurity at The Oxford Club’s Private Wealth Seminar in Quebec City, Canada, back in July. In September, I spoke on the topic at The Oxford Club conference in Sea Island, Georgia.

I’ve been writing about cybercrime and cybersecurity a lot. That’s because cyber-threats and attacks like the one on Sony are increasing, not decreasing.

I believe cybersecurity is one of the big trends of the next decade. It may be one of the big trends of this century. You need to protect yourself. Don’t be the next victim.

And if you aren’t already, start doing your own due diligence and invest for the next big rally in cybersecurity stocks.

Good investing,

Sean

Editor’s Note: As mentioned above, The Oxford Club just released an in-depth presentation that details what we believe could be the next major event to strike America. Not only does it reveal the startling research behind our prediction, it lists the specific ways you can prepare for and overcome this sort of attack. Click here.

Source: http://www.investmentu.com/article/detail/41858/the-secret-act-of-war-on-america#.VbFBeU3bK0k

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