The Web as Equalizer in Cyber Terrorism

Linda Musthaler
By | January 12, 2015

Posted in: Network Security Trends

When the World Wide Web rose to prominence two decades ago, it was called the great equalizer. By having a Web presence, a small company could look as impressive as a large company when it came to courting prospective customers and employees. Individuals could access information that previously had been locked away in hard copy sources only. Consumers could gain access to government, medical and educational services from the comfort of their home instead of having to travel to specific locations. Such access to information and services put more people and businesses on an even playing field.

But access equality goes both ways, and now we are forced to take the bad with the good. Cyber criminals and terrorists are finding that they don't have to be big players with a lot of resources to do battle against much larger organizations and win—at least for a while. Sony Pictures Entertainment is a prime example of how a small group – whether it proves to be North Korea or some other entity pointing the finger to North Korea – can do a lot of damage to a large, well-resourced company.

Now we find that several German government websites, including Chancellor Angela Merkel's webpage, were knocked offline for several hours by DDoS attacks. It's thought that a Russian-backed group identifying itself as CyberBerkut led the attack in retaliation for the German government's support for Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine. The group issued a statement on its website and called the Ukraine government "criminal" for continuing to wage war against pro-Russian forces. By association with the Ukraine government, Germany became a target for attack.

This isn't the first time that CyberBerkut used DDoS attacks as weapons in its cyberwar against much larger institutions. Last March the group took down three NATO websites in a series of denial of service attacks.

Governments like Germany and the United States have enormous defense budgets that run into hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Let's hope that someone is smart enough to insert a line item into the budget that covers DDoS defense solutions to prevent these cyber terrorist groups from winning the battle, however small it is, against legitimate government-owned websites.

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