Nation-states launch cyberattacks against an array of targets

Political activism and espionage are intended to achieve a political objective, such as disabling dissidents, Bertone told Infosecurity. An example would be the cyberattack by the Chinese government on a Falun Gong website in Alabama, which was revealed in a recent Chinese military video carried by China Central Television.

Industrial espionage involves cyberattacks against commercial enterprises and the US defense industrial base, Bertone said. Attacks against commercial enterprises are intended to catch up economically.

An example of that type of attack was the Operation Aurora attack of Google, which the company blamed on the Chinese government. The attack targeted a highly secretive system operated by the search engine giant called Gaia.

In addition, the Night Dragon attacks, also attributed to China, targeted oil and gas giants, such as Exxon Mobil, Shell, and BP. The attacks resulted in the loss of project-finance information relating to oil and gas field bids and operations.

Attacks against the US defense industrial base are designed to steal defense technology. The new Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20, appears very similar to the US F-22 and F-35 fighters, Bertone observed.

Under the cyberwarfare category, nation-states would target critical infrastructure and military capacity. “The motivation would be to compensate for inferiority in terms of traditional warfare by using cyber tactics to disrupt communications, logistics, utilities, and thing like that. We haven’t seen that against the United States yet. But there has been probing and mapping of critical infrastructure”, Bertone observed.

Bertone said that other countries besides China, as well as organized crime, are active in cyberattacks. “It is hard to know in some cases whether it was a nation-state or an organized crime group that launched an attack. In some cases, it is pretty obvious....but it other cases, particularly on the commercial side of industrial espionage, it is hard to tell”, he observed.

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