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The year in security: Cybercrooks go head to head with state-sponsored hackers

31 Dec 2012

Security experts have long warned of the threat posed by state sponsored hackers and the hyper sophisticated malware they create.

However, it was only recently that anybody has really paid attention to the warnings, with the discovery of hyper sophisticated threats like Flame and Gauss causing panic across the globe.

This started several months ago when renowned voices in the industry like F-Secure's Mikko Hypponen and Microsoft Trustworthy Computing's Scott Charney issued reports claiming the world and its governments are currently in a cyber arms race.

For this reason, where the mad antics of groups and collectives like Anonymous and its splinter cell LulzSec led to 2011 being labelled the year of the hacktivist, sophisticated malware like Flame have seen 2012 being dubbed the year of the state-sponsored threat.

However, despite its widespread media coverage many security vendors have moved to downplay the overarching significance of these threats. Kaspersky Lab's security chief David Emm clarified that threats like Flame, while serious, are old problems.

"While Flame was the largest and most sophisticated of the cyber-espionage programs, its longevity was its most prominent characteristic," said Emm.

"Being at least a five-year-old project, Flame was an example of a complex malicious program that could exist undetected for an extended amount of time while collecting massive amounts of data and sensitive information from its victims."

Emm's sentiment was mirrored by F-Secure researcher Sean Sullivan, who highlighted the fact that threats like Flame and Gauss have been around for several years.

"I would quibble a bit with ‘emergence' theory, in that what has actually emerged is information about such software. The use of espionage tools such as Flame and Gauss started already before 2012, and the budgeting and development goes back to the Bush administration," Sullivan told V3.


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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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