Gone are the days when war would take place only in the physical realm. Today’s conflicts are also happening online and launched by individuals with significant knowledge of how infrastructures and regimes can be taken down. There are many ways to infiltrate the web sites and hard drives of governments, including viruses, denial-of-service attacks and worms.
There are many news articles about state-sponsored hacking attacks. But what are state-sponsored hackers, and why are they used?
Governments often hire state-sponsored hackers in order to ensure that there are no security holes in their infrastructure. But often, this type of hacking can enter spy territory as well. Those who are skilled at infiltrating systems can be encouraged to poke around the secret files of a communist government, or gain access to classified materials about the next big weapon being developed in nations identified as threats to our way of life.
Hackers are in High Demand in the U.S.
Interestingly, there is such a high demand for skilled hackers in the United States that a number of technical schools offer courses on the subject which include certification once completed. They are called Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) courses.
Once completed, it appears unlikely that any graduate will have a problem finding employment as an ethical hacker, as all agencies involved in national defense are interested in recruiting them, including the CIA, NSA and NASA. But there appears to be many unanswered questions with regard to the country’s cybersecurity strategy.
Defining the Boundaries
One of the main issues surrounding a clear-cut cybersecurity policy is the somewhat anonymous nature of many cyber attacks. For example, technology still needs to be developed which accurately identifies the residential address of an attacker as well as where the attacks originated from.
Without the knowledge about where a hacker lives, retaliation for the attack could be made in error if the hacker resides in a country considered to be an ally. Accusations regarding particular attacks also risk being made in error.
There is also the consideration that many other countries do not take kindly to attacks which cross their borders, whether physical or virtual. As a result, many investigations into cyber attacks are shortened when enquiries are made cross-border.
The Public’s View
For those who champion efforts to maintain freedom on the internet, state-sponsored hacking has raised many questions. How is it possible to maintain internet freedom when there is such a high amount of internet crimes occurring? Are governments who associate themselves with hackers sending the message that this practice is okay? And is there really any difference between hackers?
The government says it can answer that last question with a resounding ‘yes’. There are, in fact, twelve types of what is known as the ethical kind of hacker, although a few have been known to cross the border from legal to illegal in some cases.
Types of Ethical Hackers
The Cyber Warrior
This type of ethical hacker does participate in state-sponsored activity that includes the infiltration of a country’s networks and computers. But how ethical it actually is differs depending on the observer.
Certified Ethical Hacker
As discussed above, courses for Certified Ethical Hackers are available. They teach individuals how to find the weaknesses in networks and systems, and graduates must be re-certified every three years.
These hacker types can be identified as either white or black box testers. Both are hired by companies to infiltrate systems, but the level of system knowledge differs. White box testers are given all the information they need to know about the system or network they’re working on, while black box testers enter a system as a common hacker would, with no prior knowledge whatsoever.
Is State-Sponsored Hacking Becoming A Problem?
It’s hard to say whether the popularity of state-sponsored hacking should be of concern to the general public. But with a growing number of skilled programmers coming out of educational institutions on a regular basis, it’s clear that state-sponsored hacking activity will not be something that soon becomes a thing of the past.
Guest author Ruth Suelemente writes on a variety of technology-related topics, including the top high speed internet providersin the marketplace.
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