Unknown attackers have been testing the defenses of companies that run critical parts of the Internet, possibly to figure out how to take them down, cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier warned Tuesday.

Large nation states -- perhaps China or Russia -- are the likely culprits, he suggested.

"Nation state actors are going to probe to find weaknesses in all of our technologies," said Travis Smith, senior security research engineer at Tripwire.

They "want to know what can be done not only in the event of a cyberwar but a kinetic war as well," he told TechNewsWorld

The Growing DDoS Threat 

The easiest way to take a network off the Internet is with a distributed denial of service attack, Schneier said, and some of the targeted companies recently have been hit with DDoS attacks that are significantly larger, longer lasting, and more sophisticated than before.

The attacks typically ramp up to a particular level then stop. They resume at that higher level and then continue ramping up, as if the attackers are looking for the network's exact point of failure, Schneier speculated. The attacks use multiple vectors, forcing targets to deploy all of their defenses, thus disclosing their capabilities.

Because the attackers' whereabouts are unknown, potential targets can do nothing to ward them off, Schneier said. The data seems to indicate China is behind them, but it's possible to disguise the country of origin.

DDoS and other attacks hit record heights in the second quarter of this year, Akamai reported. DDoS attacks rose 23 percent over the number recorded in Q4, 2015, and Web application attacks increased 26 percent.

Targets suffered a greater number of repeat DDoS attacks -- 29 on average. Multivectored attacks increased, as did mega-attacks of more than 100 Gbps using simple attack vectors.

Possible or Not?

State actors "are probably looking at a number of different ways to disable parts or all of the Internet," commented Paul Mockapetris, coinventor of the domain name system, currently chief scientist at ThreatStop.



The British intelligence agency GCHQ is planning to create to protect the country from cyber attacks by creating a national firewall.

The news was announced, during the Billington CyberSecurity Summit held in Washington DC, by the GCHQ director general of cyber security Ciaran Martin.

The British GCHQ recently created the National Cyber Security Centre, led by Martin, that has the task to protect national infrastructure from attacks originated on the Internet.

“The NCSC will be based in London and will open in October. Ciaran Martin, currently Director General Cyber at GCHQ will lead it. Dr Ian Levy, currently Technical Director of Cyber Security at GCHQ, will join the organisation as Technical Director.” reads a press release issued by the UK Government.

“The UK faces a growing threat of cyber-attacks from states, serious crime gangs, hacking groups as well as terrorists. The NCSC will help ensure that the people, public and private sector organisations and the critical national infrastructure of the UK are safer online.” 

In March 2016, then Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matt Hancock highlighted the importance of the Centre.

“It will be the authoritative voice on information security in the UK and one of its first tasks will be to work with the Bank of England to produce advice for the financial sector for managing cyber security effectively.” said Hancock.






In the past few years, the devastating effects of hackers breaking into an organization's network, stealing confidential data, and publishing everything have been made clear. It happened to the Democratic National Committee, to Sony, to the National Security Agency, to the cyber-arms weapons manufacturer Hacking Team, to the online adultery site Ashley Madison, and to the Panamanian tax-evasion law firm Mossack Fonseca.
This style of attack is known as organizational doxing. The hackers, in some cases individuals and in others nation-states, are out to make political points by revealing proprietary, secret, and sometimes incriminating information. And the documents they leak do that, airing the organizations’ embarrassments for everyone to see.
In all of these instances, the documents were real: the email conversations, still-secret product details, strategy documents, salary information, and everything else. But what if hackers were to alter documents before releasing them? This is the next step in organizational doxing—and the effects can be much worse.



In the latest disturbing account of Russian hacking, the FBI is reportedly investigating a series of cyber-attacks targeted at journalists from the New York Times and other U.S. media outlets. UPDATE: A story in the Times says the original report by CNN is exaggerated:

News of the hacking comes via CNN. Neither the FBI or the New York Times has confirmed it. But the news network cites unnamed government officials who paint a troubling picture:

The intrusions, detected in recent months, are under investigation by the FBI and other US security agencies. […] The Times has brought in private sector security investigators who are working with US national security officials to assess the damage and determine how the hackers got in, according to the US officials.

The report also says U.S. officials regard the attack on the New York Times journalists as part of a broader cyber-offensive by Russia, which includes hacks on the Democratic National Committee. Some speculate that Russia’s efforts to steal such confirmation could be part of a broader attempt to meddle with U.S. domestic politics ahead of the Presidential elections:

Attacks of this nature could allow hackers to obtain confidential communications between reporters and their sources in the government. It could also potentially allow Russia to release information, which would embarrass key political leaders as well as obtain insight into U.S. diplomatic or military strategies.

While the Kremlin has not endorsed either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the bulk of the cyber-attacks appear so far to have been directed at Democrats. (The New York Times is regarded by many as sympathetic to the Democratic party.) At the same time, news outlets have pointed to common political styles between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to suggest an affinity between the two men.

Meanwhile, Russia is also the mostly likely suspect behind last week’s “Shadow Brokers” incident, in which hackers published a top-secret set of cyber-weapons developed by the NSA. This is not the first time the New York Times has been hacked. In 2013, it incurred breaches attributed to China and a group known as the Syrian Liberation Army.