China Ahead of Russia as the ‘Biggest State Sponsor’ of Cyberattacks on the West

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China has overtaken Russia as the biggest state sponsor of cyber-attacks targeting the West, according to a report from one of the world’s biggest cybersecurity firms.

Cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike has claimed China is now ahead of Russia as the biggest state-sponsor of cyberattacks targeting firms, universities, think tanks, government agencies and NGOs alike in the West.

In analyzing thousands of cyberattacks in the first six months of 2018, over a third (36 percent) were targeting technology firms while the biotech sector also witnessed a spike in attacks, aimed at stealing intellectual property and research secrets. Defence, mining, transport and pharmaceutical companies were also targeted.

The company said in a report:

Academic institutions also have reputations for somewhat relaxed IT security procedures, providing adversaries with potential opportunities to easily build malicious network infrastructures to facilitate additional attacks elsewhere.

Cybercriminals are also increasingly using TeamViewer as a method to infiltrate targets through remote access. A legitimate tool for connecting remote computers for desktop sharing and collaboration and enabling remote support, TeamViewer was first observed being used for malicious purposes by Russian threat actor Team Bear.

In identifying 116 adversary groups, the bulk of nation-state cyberattackers were Chinese at 40, followed by Russia with 10 individuals, eight in Iran, North Korea with five and others from a number of middle east governments.

Crowdstrike also said it had uncovered ‘highly-sophisticated’ attacking techniques by hackers who hid their tracks while targeting universities as a ripe resource of financial and personal data.

Crowdstrike vice-president Jennifer Ayers warned of cyberattacks becoming increasingly impactful on a global scale, with the precedent set by WannaCry and NotPetya in 2017.

“We saw it with the NHS where people had to resort to using pen and paper. You could easily take that to the next level where smart technology, power plants and power grids are affected,” she told the Telegraph. “That’s why a destructive global attack with ransomware scares me the most.”

She added:

“The world wasn’t prepared for ransomware. It took some days to recover but it took others months.”

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