Cyber Week in Review: Russia, Qatar & Australia

global cyber attacks

The biggest cyber threats often occur right in your own backyard: your own email gets hacked, work computers get ransomed, or fake news shows up in your newsfeed.

This week, however, as we bring you some of the top news in recent cyber attacks, we will hop around the globe.  From cold Russia to desert Qatar, with a bounce across the ocean to the world’s only nation-continent.

It’s this week’s cyber week in review.

From Russia with…Love?

Russia has taken a keen interest in elections in other countries, or so a growing body of evidence suggests.  So far, it seems the Ruskies have meddled in at least these ways:

  • Hacking the US Democratic National Conference
  • “Leaking” hacked documents about Hillary Clinton and other key figures in the US presidential election
  • Spreading propaganda and disinformation during the French election
  • Targeting electronic voting systems suppliers during the US election

Recent news of an NSA document leak, directly naming Russian official involvement in cyber attacks has made this Russian hacking connection more transparent.

What is less clear is motivation…why does the Russian GRU love hacking these days?  Speculation ranges from desiring political allies in key global offices, to a desire to undermine democracy itself.

Sometimes hacking is just about power, and maybe Vladimir Putin is simply on a good old-fashioned power trip.

Time may tell.

Cutting it up in Qatar

Speaking of hacking foreign nations, the small middle eastern peninsular nation of Qatar may be under cyber attack.

Qatar has long been considered a stabilizing ally within Arab nations.  Recently, things have gotten a little extra complicated, with documents and statements “leaked” reportedly made by Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.

As anyone following global political news can tell you, the term “leaked” likely means one of two things: either hacked and released data, or fabricated data.

Qatar is claiming the second: that Thani never made such statements, which seem to support groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and express a wish to see agreements with Iran fail.

On top of that, Qatar has experienced an economic crisis following a blockade in Arab nations.

So was Thani joking?  Did he never say such things? Was he hacked?  Is it Russia again?

No one knows for sure.  What is known is that there appears to be a botnet army smear campaign impacting Middle Eastern relations at the moment.

Hacking in the Land Down Under

Developing a global policy on cyber security solutions will require international cooperation on an as-yet-not-seen scale.  After at least 50 years of nuclear arms talks, even that conversation hasn’t completely settled to everyone’s satisfaction.

Internal cyber security policies are a great place to start.  So Australia has hopped on that bandwagon with a revision of Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy, outlining federal policy.

Like other nations, Australia is grappling with some key issues:

  • Federal cyber security management versus private industry responsibility
  • Cooperation between public and private sectors
  • The difficulty of policing cyber threats and enforcing policy when global threat actors increasingly cross national boundaries
  • “Hacking back” as an appropriate action against cyber threats

Playing Well Together

Whether across nations or across the public and private sectors, one thing we’ve learned is the need for global cyber security solutions.  The enemy is within: threat actors come from nearly every country and in the digital age have the ability to act remotely against any target.

International cooperation may still be a pipe dream, but if we all learn to play together well the cyberverse will get much more secure for everyone.

At least for now, enjoy the headlines…but stay out of them.

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