Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Weaponization of Cyberspace

The weaponization of cyberspace started with the advent of criminal enterprise, and over time has enabled cyber warfare for a mass audience. Some of the best exploitation technology was created for banking fraud. These tools include remote access botnets, multi-platform reliable exploits, command and control schemes, zero-day exploits, and blackhat-VPNs for anonymous access to the Internet.

Because the technology was developed in the underground it can be purchased by anyone - it's unclassified and not controlled by state security. As a result, very advanced attack technology has been disseminated to a greater population and non-state threat actors have emerged. Now individual citizens can access the same weaponized technology that was previously only used by the state-level efforts to conduct espionage that advances national interests. These same 'rogue hacking groups' have emerged with mixed ideological goals - many of them anti-state, religious extremist, and anti-corporate. There are hundreds of internationally organized groups that can be enumerated by anyone willing to do a little open-source intelligence research.

The weaponization of cyberspace is a key driving force that started with criminal enterprise, but has grown into a much larger context. Exploitation of systems can now be combined with the exploitation of online media. I predict that traditional terrorist methods will be replaced largely due to the immediate attention an amateur can bring to their cause by latching on to a brand name and posting their ideological views via the countless social outlets available to them. Because the press does not traditionally frequent cyber cafe's in remote parts of the world (where western ideology and freedom isn’t necessarily embraced), would-be terrorists will seek more effective means to distribute and influence from whatever rock they're hiding under. Cyberspace offers far less exposure and risk than carrying a cell phone detonator in a busy marketplace. No, it is far easier to tap out a few keystrokes and get your shot at trending, getting linked, liked, and retweeted. In terrorism the goal is messaging, and those with things to say have found their outlet. Whether highly sophisticated abroad, or in the deepest darkest caves, or down in the basement of their parent’s home, the Internet is their soap box.