Cyber-Attacks Surge Across U.S. and the Europe: Hacker Attacks to Order

In an era marked by escalating cyber threats, both Europe and the United States find themselves besieged by a surge of hacker attacks tailored to order, raising profound concerns about the resilience of digital infrastructures

by Sededin Dedovic
Cyber-Attacks Surge Across U.S. and the Europe: Hacker Attacks to Order
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In recent months, European countries have faced a surge in cyber-attacks targeting government institutions and private companies, from multinationals to small businesses. These incidents, including numerous data leaks affecting millions of citizens, have raised alarm in Brussels.

The European Union is not alone in facing such threats. The United States experiences thousands of cyber-attacks weekly, affecting both citizens, often through credit card data theft, and even the Pentagon, reports AlJazzera.

Ironically, the very internet infrastructure and technologies that billions of people use today for social media and emails were developed as a Pentagon project in the mid-1970s. The then-named ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), part of the U.S.

Department of Defense, created early computer networks between its research centers for nuclear attack warnings during the Cold War. Today, this agency is known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and focuses on advanced research in propulsion, autonomous drones, and smart weapons.

Despite its technological edge, the Pentagon could not defend against a major cyber-attack. Late last year, it was revealed that hackers successfully breached the U.S. Department of Defense’s servers, accessing sensitive data and about 600,000 emails.

The attack, which occurred in May 2023, was executed using a new malware virus called CLOP, which exploits zero-day vulnerabilities—previously unknown flaws in software. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) believes that Russian hacking groups are behind the CLOP malware.

Identifying zero-day vulnerabilities requires advanced programming, software engineering, and network security testing skills, along with significant hardware resources—typically beyond the reach of small hacker groups but feasible for major global powers like Russia.

CISA also asserts that most cyber-attacks originating from Russia are state-supported, involving agencies like the GRU and SVR. CLOP ransomware has extorted at least $500 million from organizations worldwide.

House Hearing Examines Chinas Cyber Threat To The United States© Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

CLOP is notable for being one of the first ransomware viruses used as a RaaS (Ransomware as a Service).

Major hacking groups often sell malicious software and expertise as services on the dark web, where stolen databases containing everything from credit card numbers to health records are also traded. Crowdstrike, a leading cybersecurity firm, reports that RaaS services can be rented monthly, with discounts available.

For around $10,000, it is even possible to commission a cyber-attack on a specific target. Cisco, a key provider of internet infrastructure, notes that RaaS has become a major service industry, with some malware codes freely available on the dark web.

Even CISA and Pentagon servers were hit by a significant cyber-attack early this year, forcing CISA to shut down two of its largest supercomputers, one of which contained security software used by various U.S. agencies. The attack was linked to a zero-day vulnerability in networking software from the U.S.

company Ivanti. The pressing question remains: if CISA and the Pentagon cannot fully protect against RaaS attacks, how can smaller nations and individual users safeguard their systems? Experts recommend daily use of antivirus software and regular backups of important data.

Cyber-attacks have also become a hot political issue globally, especially in Europe. Germany recently recalled its ambassador from Moscow following a series of Russian cyber-attacks on its computer systems. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock publicly warned Moscow and her Brussels counterparts of the "unacceptable cyber-attacks," promising consequences for Russia.

Berlin and Brussels believe the attacks are orchestrated by Russian hackers linked to the GRU, the same group likely behind the CLOP attack on CISA and the Pentagon. IBM estimates that RaaS attacks are so common that over 80% of American companies have been attacked, with the average cost for major corporations being around $4.4 million.

The FBI’s annual report states that cyber-attacks in the U.S. increased by 22% last year, causing more than $12.5 billion in damage. Experts predict global losses from cyber-attacks could reach $8 trillion, potentially rising to $10 trillion by 2030, nearly a tenth of the global economy.

The origins of the internet and many of its foundational technologies lie in military research, yet this very network is now a battlefield. While DARPA's efforts continue to push technological boundaries, the increasing sophistication of cyber threats underscores a critical need for enhanced cybersecurity measures.

The irony of the Pentagon's own creation being used against it in cyber warfare illustrates the evolving challenges in maintaining digital security. With RaaS making sophisticated cyber tools accessible to a broader range of attackers, the need for robust, proactive cybersecurity strategies has never been more urgent.

Regular software updates, rigorous network security protocols, and comprehensive threat assessments are essential for both large institutions and individual users. The global landscape of cyber threats is becoming more complex, with state-sponsored attacks adding a geopolitical dimension to the challenge. Unfortunately, this problem is likely to persist for a long time.

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