According to the report recently published by Microsoft, Russia is responsible for 58% state-sponsored hacker attacks. China’s falling behind with less than 10%.
State-sponsored hacking: What is it about?
The report cites ransomware as the most dangerous and growing issue in cyber security. The United States is by far the most targeted country outnumbering the next most targeted country triple the times. Usually, ransomware attacks are financially motivated – at least, ransomware attracts a lot of people from poor countries. On the other hand, state-sponsored hacking is about intelligence and gathering information. The purposes for that cover national security, commercial or strategic advantage. The U.S cyber operators are the most skilled. Microsoft, which works in partial collaboration with the United States government agencies, has not reported on the US hacker activity.
The company’s report says Russia`s usual targets were the US think tanks and governmental agencies. It also includes Britain, European NATO members and Ukraine. Russia’s state-sponsored attacks constituted 32% of those successfully conducted compared to the 21% previous year. Cyber security specialists say that the rise in the percentage of SolarWinds hacks greatly contributed. SolarWinds, one of the biggest US information technology firms, was the subject of attacks. They were reportedly conducted by the Russian state-sponsored hackers. Reuters first reported on the matter. Senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department, also the elite cybersecurity firm FireEye were among the victims of the attack.
Microsoft report states the following:
‘Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense,’ Tom Burt, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Customer Security & Trust, added in the report.1
Microsoft also placed Iran and North Korea as the next large source of attacks with South Korea, Vietnam and Turkey following. The company placed China to the first place in conducting cyber attacks with 44% successful attempts.
State sponsored hacking interests
In summary, state-sponsored attacks scored a 10%-20% success rate according to Cristin Goodwin, who is the head of Microsoft’s Digital Security Unit. After the SolarWinds attack, Russian hackers moved towards targeting government agencies involved in national security, foreign policy, and defense, next with the fewer number of think tanks than health care, where they targeted organizations testing and developing Covid-19 treatments and vaccines in India, Japan, Israeli, Canada, Australia and the United States. The report also refutes the obsolete belief that Chinese spies only try to pilfer intellectual property. The Redmond, Washington-based company added that nearly 4% of state-sponsored attacks were directed towards critical infrastructure. Russian hackers seem to be less interested in it than those in Iran or China.