Ten years ago, many organizations still considered cyber attacks targeting their corporate infrastructure as something out of science fiction.  But, in today’s world, news of cyber attacks targeting businesses and government organizations are common. 

Just this past week, 87 Israeli websites were attacked by the Anonymous hacktivist group due to the “despicable treatment of the Palestinian people.” Unfortunately, even though attacks are a daily occurrence, many organizations still mistakenly assume that they will not be the target of a cyber attack because they:

  • Believe they are too small a player in their industry
  • Don’t believe they store sensitive data
  • Think they will escape the notice of attackers

But there are many non-financial reasons why organizations are attacked. The RSA Attack  An organization may be attacked because they have information that could be useful to an attacker against one of their customers. In March 2011, it was reported that RSA, a top security firm, was the victim of a very sophisticated attack.  The attackers were able to steal information pertaining to one of RSA’s authentication products. But the RSA attack was only a stepping-stone for the attackers.  The true target of the attack seems to have been sensitive information that the United States defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, was storing and the information stolen from RSA was used in the final attack. If an organization has customers that are a target of attackers, then that organization may also be a target. Hacktivists Another reason an organization may be attacked is because they have become the target of hacktivists.  Hacktivists groups span the political spectrum.  The most well-known hacktivist group is Anonymous, but there are many other hacktivists groups that have attacked organizations because of a political agenda. They often perform denial of service attacks against targets that they disagree with, but have also defaced websites in an effort to deface an organization and promote their own politics. For example, in 2010, the European Climate Exchange’s website was defaced because a hacktivist group was promoting their views that carbon trading is a false solution to the climate crisis. Stealing Computing Resources Another reason why attackers may target an organization is to steal their computing resources.  Small to medium sized businesses are unlikely to have a computer security budget.  Attackers know this and will target their computers for takeover. Once these computers are compromised, they can be used to create a “botnet”, which is a network of computers controlled by the attackers.  Botnets are valuable resources to attackers because they can be used to send spam email, perform denial of service attacks, and myriad other tasks.  Attackers will rent out portions of their botnet to other criminals for their own malicious intentions.  One security researcher found that the average cost for renting a botnet for an hour was only nine dollars, while renting one for an entire day was only sixty-seven dollars.  With prices that low, there must be a lot of competition for renting botnets!  So it appears that believing that an organization will never be attacked due to their lack of size, lack of financial data, or lack of visibility is a poor assumption.   Attackers look for targets for many different reasons. 

    Sources: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/11/17/anonymous-is-hacking-israeli-web-sites/ https://www.informationweek.com/government/security/lockheed-martin-suffers-massive-cyberatt/229700151 https://threatpost.com/en_us/blogs/carbon-trading-halted-after-hack-exchange-012011 http://www.zdnet.com/blog/security/study-finds-the-average-price-for-renting-a-botnet/6528