The activity referred to as cyber espionage describes the launching of an attack or several attacks that enable an unauthorised entity to view sensitive or confidential data. Typically, the target of these assaults are enterprises and government departments, and often simply consist of a background process or a code iteration running on an employee workstation or company mainframe.

Usually, the end-goal of cyber espionage is to obtain intellectual property or government secrets. Cyberattacks can be conducted as acts of terrorism or may form part of a dedicated military operation. The main motivations for these activities are greed or the pursuit of financial gain. The consequences of these attacks might involve a firm losing its competitive edge, along with losing information, resources or infrastructure.

In the current market, having the most up-to-date and accurate information at hand is exceptionally beneficial and provides a tactical advantage to operators in the corporate sector but also with national governments across the globe. Most workplace data is now stored electronically on computer networks and their connected devices, creating obvious targets for malicious entities attempting to profit and gain the upper hand. Read on as we detail all the essential information you should know about cyber espionage.

Defining cyber espionage

Cyber espionage is a form of targeted cyberattack performed by a threat operator that has the necessary tools and abilities to access, steal or disclose confidential data or intellectual property (IP) with an aim of gaining an unfair advantage in politics, business or other competition. Furthermore, it can also be employed as part of a campaign to destroy the reputation of either an individual or organisation.

The practice of cyber espionage does not necessarily need to be complex, but it can involve intricate strategies and often protracted and persistent computer network compromises. Social engineering, Advanced persistent threats (APT), malware attacks, and targeted spear phishing are common kinds of cyber espionage recorded by experts. As attacks are becoming increasingly more complicated to achieve success, the cyber espionage threat landscape is ever-changing.

Why is cyber espionage employed?

Typically, cyber espionage methods are deployed as a tool to gather classified or sensitive data, trade secrets, and other types of IP that the attacker can exploit to obtain a competitive advantage or sell to make profits. In some cases, the data breach is only designed to tarnish the target’s professional reputation by disclosing dubious activities or sensitive material.

Assaults are carried out for a variety of reasons. These sometimes include strategic military purposes, financial gain or as a kind of cyberwarfare. In extreme instances, cyber espionage can be an impediment to infrastructure and public services that may result in fatalities. This is especially the case when the attack is a part of a greater political or military campaign.

Understanding cyber espionage targets

Internal enterprise information is a prime target of threat actors engaging in cyber espionage. This covers sensitive data retained secretly by an organisation for its internal operations. Research and development data and operational information are just two examples.

IP is another sought-after target. Cyber espionage is used to target data regarding confidential projects, proprietary formulas, internal plans, and other kinds of private data related to projects and products in development. In simple terms, it refers to any information the attacker may be able to sell or market to earn a profit.

Information on customers and clients is also fair game. Cyber espionage activities frequently target information about the services and marketing that a firm provides for its consumers. Market data and information on competitors is also in the sights of cyber espionage operators. Data that pertains to a firm’s marketing objectives or the knowledge it has on its rivals can be a valuable prize for cyber spies.

Common cyber espionage methods

Most cyber espionage activities are categorised as advanced persistent threat or APT for short. An APT is a highly sophisticated and protracted cyberattack. It involves a hacker infiltrating an enterprise network without being detected with the aim of acquiring critical data over an extended term. An APT attack is meticulously planned, intended to penetrate a specific organisation, and designed to outlast all current security defences.

As a rule, APT attacks take far more technical skill and customisation to execute than standard cyberattacks do. Most of the time, adversaries are skilled and well-resourced cybercriminal teams that only prey on larger enterprises.

Protecting you operation from cyber espionage

If you are charged with protecting the confidential data retained used by your firm, Galaxkey can help you outwit the latest cyber espionage techniques with cutting-edge measures. While delivering paramount protections, the data security tools that we deliver are designed to be user-friendly to ensure correct deployment. At the heart of our solutions lies robust, three-layer data encryption that is approved by the UK’s NCSC. Contact us today and arrange a free 14-day trial to get protected.