Q

Protect your enterprise from hackers for hire

Hackers for hire pose significant enterprise risks. Does your organization know if it's a target? Get the low-down on these organized crime groups.

I've been hearing a lot about "hackers for hire." Can you please elaborate on who these groups -- such as Hidden Lynx -- are, who they target, why they are doing what they do, and whether my organization should be concerned about them?

So-called "hackers for hire" are professional organizations that use advanced capabilities to attack high-value targets for various reasons -- often for financial gain, but sometimes for hacktivism or simply to cause someone public embarrassment. Some individuals become part of hackers-for-hire organizations because they like the easy money and relatively low-risk work. Others live in an area where there are few legitimate jobs and hacking is a way to sustain a living.  

These groups have adopted professional software development practices, achieved high levels of discipline and structure, and have access to the resources of a professional organization (e.g., teams of exploit researchers, software developers, testers and system administrators). In general, hackers for hire attack high-value targets that either have significant intellectual property or access to systems that would allow them to obtain high-value IP such as trade secrets, inventions or copyrights.

Hidden Lynx, like the infamous Comment Crew (also known as the APT1), is believed to be funded at least in part by the Chinese government. Hidden Lynx has purportedly attacked companies in Boston and Washington, D.C. within the financial services, international relations, education and defense industries.

Depending on your organization's industry, your enterprise may need to be concerned about hackers for hire. However, given the increase in watering hole attacks, organizations could be at risk even if they support, interact with or service one of the targeted sectors.

While your enterprise may not have the intellectual property, credit cards or personally identifiable information that hackers are looking for, it could offer a point of entry into other targeted industries. For example, the health insurance provider for a company in a target industry could be attacked because the target enterprise's employees access the health insurance provider's website, which is exactly where the hacker has hidden a zero-day vulnerability that will be used for future attacks.

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This was first published in May 2014

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