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A look at cyber war in 2018

Last year was a banner year for cyber crime; more data was stolen in the first six months of 2017 than in the entirety of 2016. Gemalto’s Breach Level Index found that over 900 data breaches occurred during the first half of 2017, compromising 1.9 billion records.

According to Jing Xie, senior threat intelligence analyst for Venafi (, a cyber security company, this explosive development in data exfiltration will continue in 2018. In an even more ominous trend, the number of sophisticated state sponsored cyber attacks increased significantly last year.

“In 2017, attackers working for nation-states focused on efficiency and return on investment, and they were very successful,” said Xie. “As a result, we should expect to see escalations and variations of similar attack vectors this year.”
Xie examined the condition of nation-state sponsored cyber warfare and offered these predictions and insights for 2018:

The ongoing wrestling match between super powers will move from clandestine programs that are largely carried out behind the scenes to more public attacks aimed at critical infrastructure and services, according to Venafi. Because vital security assets control encrypted communication between machines, many cyber attacks will leverage compromised or rogue keys and certificates. A nation-state with this power can bombard critical infrastructure through increasingly sophisticated variations of attacks, sabotaging core services using attacks derived from Stuxnet and Duqu.

Venafi says cyber criminals sponsored by nation-states may find ways to exploit the trust models used to control communication between machines. The easiest way to accomplish this would be to attack or manipulate Certificate Authorities and the keys and certificates they issue. If successful, this exploit vector would allow cyber criminals to eavesdrop on a wide range of confidential communications, intercept and redirect encrypted traffic, and target government watchdogs and human rights activists.

We saw numerous state-sponsored social media campaigns that concentrated on fostering public doubt, and fear, during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Venafi says that, due to the success of these campaigns, we should expect additional attacks against local and national elections. Some attacks may even utilize fraudulent identities of both humans and machines to steal and leak sensitive nation-state data. Distressingly, these attacks are occurring in elections around the globe.

“With every major nation-state expanding both offensive and defensive cyber war spending, public and private critical infrastructure and communication providers should expect to be caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. As a result of the cumulative impact of powerful spending and attack trends, we should expect to see at least one act of nation-state sponsored cyber warfare that directly impacts citizens this year,” added Xie.

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