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It's not just the United States and UK launching sophisticated cyberespionage attacks against foreign government states, with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other nations increasingly jumping into the fun. Groups in China and Russia have been linked to major data breaches, such as Target, The Home Depot, Anthem, Sony Pictures, with future breaches expected to happen.
China is the most active country involved in launching cyberattacks, routinely targeting US infrastructure - and other lucrative targets, such as financial institutions and government departments. As witnessed by CrowdStrike, skilled Chinese hacker groups are able to adapt their strategies while avoiding detection.
The Obama administration has publicly criticized China for its cyberespionage activities, but has been unable to launch any meaningful political crackdowns.
Consumers and business users face a wide variety of different cyberattacks, and security experts are increasingly concerned about ransomware. Ransomware, a custom form of malware designed to hijack computers and work files, typically encrypt vital documents - unless a ransom is paid.
Microsoft Windows PC users face the largest threat from CryptoWall, a ransomware variation that has uncrackable encryption and uses anonymity networks to avoid detection.
Another nasty form of ransomware recently discovered is Invincea, which delivers the payload straight to system memory instead of targeting files on a hard drive. "This particular strain is new and quite harmful as it takes advantage of file-less infections that can communicate through the TOR network," said Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4. "We are going to continue to see more and more ransomware this year and this is just the latest innovation."
Cybersecurity incidents are going to occur, and companies should rethink their current security strategies. Instead of focusing on preventing criminals from accessing their data - which has become increasingly difficult - decision leaders should have a plan in place for when a breach finally does occur.
The median length cybercriminals have inside a compromised victim's network is 229 days, which gives them a significant amount of time to access data, find additional loopholes, and plan what information they will take. Companies often are unaware a breach has taken place, and don't have an appropriate strategy to boot the hackers and secure their networks.
Typical cybersecurity defenses need to focus on having "a description of the bad guys before they can help you find them," said Dave Merkel, CTO of FireEye, in a statement published by the San Jose Mercury News. "That's just old and outmoded. And just doesn't work anymore. There's no way to guarantee that you never are the victim of a cyberattack."
The United States publicly unveiled its Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC), a new program designed to study cyber threats facing government agencies.
The idea of increased communication between federal government agencies, law enforcement and private sector corporations seems like a wise idea - but is going to be extremely difficult. The CTIIC wants to create a first step towards that goal, with government agencies and law enforcement coordinating to discuss current cyberattack patterns.
Even though the US government is being pressured to become more proactive in the fight against cyberattacks, some have questioned if the CTIIC will be an effective tool. "In principle, having a single 'belly button' is a nice idea," said Jeff Williams, CTO and founder of Contrast Security, in a statement to NBC News. "But in reality, it's just one more agency with cybersecurity responsibility."
The main Twitter page for Newsweek was hacked by CyberCaliphate, a mysterious pro-ISIS group, with a new profile picture, main image and number of tweets posted. A series of tweets also took aim at the first lady Michelle Obama and her family, threatening them - and the FBI is now investigating the matter.
"We apologize to our readers for anything offensive that might have been sent from our account during that period, and are working to strengthen our newsroom security measures going forward," said Kira Bindrim, Managing Editor of Newsweek, in response to the data breach.
Newsweek was able to regain control of its Twitter account in 20 minutes, but the hijacked Twitter messages were tweeted and shared among the news organization's 2.51 million followers.
Popular fast casual restaurant Chipotle has issued an apology to its Twitter followers, after being hacked over the weekend. Insensitive tweets were published to more than its 634,000 followers, including racist messages aimed at President Obama - before Twitter could suspend the account. A separate tweet claimed the company would be shutting restaurants before the end of the year.
We apologize for the very offensive messages sent out from our account earlier tonight. We were unfortunately hijacked temporarily. -Joe- Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) February 8, 2015
The attack also reportedly hit the official Chipotle website, which led visitors to a different website.
"Our Twitter account was hijacked overnight for about two hours during which a series of offensive tweets was posted to the account," said Chris Arnold, communications director of Chipotle. "We apologize for the nature of the posts that were made during that time, and we are now conducting an investigation to try to determine what happened and who might have been involved."
In the aftermath of the Anthem data breach last week, the New York Financial Services Department said it plans to conduct cybersecurity audits of insurance companies. The "regular" and "targeted assessments" will be a part of its examination process, and enhanced regulations should keep New York insurance members safer from future data breaches.
The Anthem data breach could affect upwards of 80 million people, as personal information was taken during the sophisticated cyberattack.
"We're still in the process of finalizing and determining the enhanced requirements, but we are moving quickly and expect to begin putting them forward in the coming weeks," said Matt Anderson, spokesman of the New York Financial Services Department, in a statement published by Reuters. "These requirements are specific to New York, but we're of course always willing to discuss these issues with other states."
Donna Prouty, 57, is accused of stealing more than $2,500 in credits from a restaurant, accessing the restaurant's mobile payment account. Her husband allegedly allowed her to use the app to transfer funds from the restaurant's bank accounts into her own personal accounts.
The Maryland District Court Commissioner has charged Prouty with theft, theft scheme, and several counts of unauthorized use of a credit card.
Restaurants and other businesses hope that accepting mobile payments will make it easier for customers to pay - but mobile security remains a critical issue. It's unknown what service the restaurant uses to collect mobile payments, however, this type of issue must be solved to prevent similar security breaches.
The Anonymous hacker collective is taking aim at ISIS in Syria and Iraq, launching attacks to disrupt the group's social media accounts. As part of its #OpISIS campaign, Anonymous has taken down hundreds of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts linked to ISIS - used to spread propaganda and woo potential recruits.
"ISIS: We will hunt you, take down your sites, accounts, emails and expose you," Anonymous pledges. "From now on, no safe place for you online... you will be treated like a Virus, and we are the cure. We own the Internet. We are Anonymous; we are Legion; we do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us."
In addition to listing Twitter and Facebook accounts - of both compromised accounts and possible targets - Anonymous has revealed email addresses, IP addresses, VPN connections and websites used by the extremist group.
The recent data breach suffered by Anthem is further proof that companies are under cyberattack - and find it difficult to keep up with increasing numbers of sophisticated attacks. Many corporations understand they face cybersecurity threats, but can do very little to prevent crippling data breaches.
"For any given unit of time that goes by, the probability of an organization being compromised is trending to 100 percent," said John Hering, co-founder of the Lookout security firm, in a statement to CNBC. "We need to move to a world where security is not reactive, but proactive and predictive."
Financial institutions and medical companies typically have more stringent security protocols in place, but still find it difficult to prevent attacks. Late last year, JPMorgan Chase suffered a data breach that affected millions of customers, with phishing attacks and other threats targeting compromised victims.