Monday, November 21, 2011

Hackers Attack Utilities (Explained)

In 2001 America came under attack in the most visible way possible, but now, a decade later, we are learning that America is vulnerable to attack by hackers, who target water utilities and other government services.  The internet is the latest battlefield, where cyber attacks and spyware successfully plunder secrets from corporate and military targets in the U.S..  According to Joel Brenner, a global risk management consultant and former National Security adviser, human spies are becoming obsolete due to increasingly sophisticated malware and executable programs that invade computer systems to do the bidding of unseen enemies.  Little is safe anymore, since professional, state-sponsored hackers exploit not just code flaws but also human naivety to steal and mine data.  In his new book AMERICA THE VULNERABLE--Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare, the author reveals startling gaps in the security of the banking industry, the Pentagon, and the research and development arms of technology companies.  Not only is the credit card information of millions up for grabs, but trade secrets and source code valued in the billions, as when China stole a Navy radar system which took years to develop.  In one case, Russia distributed thousands of secretly corrupted thumb drives until one was used by a covert military worker who uploaded a picture of his baby on a "secure" computer, and unknowingly installed an executable file that relayed classified information back to Russia via the internet.  In another case, Iran hacked into Predator drone aircraft systems, and saw the same images the controllers saw in real time, relaying the feed so that insurgents could avoid detection.  Every time we use our credit cards, or our cell phones, or visit a website which may or may not be phishing for data, we leave a trail that can be traced and exploited.  Companies are fighting back, but according to Brenner, nothing is 100% safe from criminals with ingenious methods and cutting-edge technology.  His book is a must read for security personnel hoping to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or attacking our power grids, or for anyone else wishing to protect themselves or their companies from attack.  Available also is GHOST IN THE WIRES, Kevin Mitnick's memoir about how he hacked phone companies nationwide for years, creating false identities while conning security employees into helping him mine their data by pretending to be an employee himself.

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