6 Instigators Threatening U.S. IT

Beyond Criminals, Hackers and Terrorists
6 Instigators Threatening U.S. IT

Cyber threats to federal information systems and the nation's critical IT infrastructure are growing, Gregory Wilshusen, director of information security issues for the Government Accountability Office, told a House panel on Tuesday.

"These threats can be unintentional and intentional, targeted or non-targeted, and can come from a variety of sources, such as foreign nations engaged in espionage and information warfare, criminals, hackers, virus writers and disgruntled employees and contractors working within an organization," Wilshusen said.

Wilshusen provided the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and Procurement with the following description of threat sources, originally prepared for CIA director Dennis Blair:

Criminal Groups
There is an increased use of cyber intrusions by criminal groups that attack systems for monetary gain.

Disgruntled Insider
The disgruntled insider, working from within an organization, is a principal source of computer crimes. Insiders may not need a great deal of knowledge about computer intrusions because their knowledge of a victim system often allows them to gain unrestricted access to cause damage to the system or to steal system data. The insider threat also includes contractor personnel.

Foreign Nations
Foreign intelligence services use cyber tools as part of their information gathering and espionage activities. According to the Director of National Intelligence, a growing array of state and non-state adversaries are increasingly targeting for exploitation and potential disruption or destruction the information infrastructure, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems and embedded processors and controllers in critical industries.

Hackers sometimes crack into networks for the thrill of the challenge or for bragging rights in the hacker community. While remote cracking once required a fair amount of skill or computer knowledge, hackers can now download attack scripts and protocols from the Internet and launch them against victim sites. Thus, attack tools have become more sophisticated and easier to use.

Hacktivism refers to politically motivated attacks on publicly accessible Web pages or email servers. These groups and individuals overload e-mail servers and hack into Web sites to send a political message.

Terrorists seek to destroy, incapacitate or exploit critical infrastructures to threaten national security, cause mass casualties, weaken the U.S. economy and damage public morale and confidence. However, traditional terrorist adversaries of the United States are less developed in their computer network capabilities than other adversaries. Terrorists likely pose a limited cyber threat. The Central Intelligence Agency believes terrorists will stay focused on traditional attack methods, but it anticipates growing cyber threats as a more technically competent generation enters the ranks

Source: FBI, unless noted.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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