If the news had been “Russian backed hackers attack another retailer”, it probably would have gotten a collective yawn from the public and the cyber community. TJMaxx, Home Depot, Target, KMart, PF Chang, just one more to add to the list. However, in this case the cyber community at least is taking note of the recent hack of NATO as well as the Ukrainian government by hackers who are purportedly backed by Russia. It would seem that these ‘bad actors’ are not only interested in cybercrime as long suspected, but also have aligned themselves politically with nation states seeking information to gain political advantage over their opponents.
In this case, hackers have been using the tried and true ‘spearphishing’ method to gain access to digital systems related to NATO and the Ukraine. Once inside the accounts of targeted individuals, hackers are leveraging their access to gain higher levels of access and intrude deeper into sensitive data that can be used for strategic advantage or future cyber kinetic activity should the occasion arise.
For some time there has been speculation that ‘Far East’ hackers are aligned with major powers in that region, and the same thoughts have been swirling around ‘East European’ hackers and their relationship to major powers in that particular region. It can be difficult at times to connect all the dots, but with this hack coming at the same time as military aggression in the region escalates, the linkage is much clearer.
Cyberspace has clearly joined the military domains to air, land, sea and space to become the fifth domain.