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The Chinese government is on the top of the list of foreign groups targeting the United States with cyberattacks, according to a recent statement issued by FBI director James Comey. Cyber espionage allows Chinese companies to copy and steal technologies so they do not need to innovate themselves, as the number of daily cyberattacks only increases.
"Well, I don't want to give you a complete list," Comey recently said in his interview with CBS News. "But I can tell you the top of the list is the Chinese. As we have demonstrated with the charges brought earlier this year against five members of the People's Liberation Army. They are extremely aggressive and widespread in their efforts to break into American systems to steal information that would benefit their industry."
It's not a surprise that China is a top threat that the U.S. government is watching - but is a strong signal that after years of burying their heads in the sand, officials understand they must improve critical infrastructure to reduce data breaches from state-sponsored cybercriminals.
Children and teenagers are a bit more naïve and lackadaisical when handing out information online, which could pose a risk, according to former head of the British MI6 intelligence agency. The technology world is changing at a rapid pace and the environment has caught some parents off-guard in keeping their children protected, according to Sir John Scarlett.
Sir John is most concerned of tracking technology and devices, with teenagers susceptible of apps and online conversations potentially giving up their location - and other personal information.
"You've got to know what your children are doing," Scarlett recently noted. "It's very difficult to know exactly what they're doing in particular when they're on a tablet or something they've got and you've got to have some kind of idea. They are extremely vulnerable, everybody is, to a whole range of things. Clearly when they're young children they're particularly vulnerable to predators."
Russian president Vladimir Putin will not restrict Russian Internet access following an increase in cyberattacks against the country. Following a rise in organized cyberattacks - which began after the Russia-Ukraine crisis - privacy and free speech experts were concerned Moscow would tighten Internet use in Russia.
"We do not intend to limit access to the Internet, to put it under total control, to nationalize the Internet," Putin recently said in front of a Security Council meeting. "We are not even considering this. Media freedoms, the right of people to receive and disseminate information - these are basic principles of any democratic state and society. They must be strictly adhered to."
Security Council secretary general Nikolai Patrushev said the Russian infrastructure has encountered 57 million cyberattacks during the first six months of 2014 - with many blamed on foreign governments and anti-Russian government extremists.
The U.S. Justice Department announced four accused members of the "Xbox Underground" hacker group have been charged for their roles in launching attacks against the U.S. military, Microsoft, and other game studios.
Two of the members, Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, and David Pokora, 22, have pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement. They both face up to five years in prison when they are sentenced in early 2015.
As part of the 18-count indictment that was recently unsealed, Nathan Leroux, 20, and Austin Alcala, 18, also contributed to the hacking activities - which included stealing more than $100 million of software and data related to military pilot training and Xbox gaming information. Xbox Underground also took pre-release copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Gears of War 3 as part of their criminal activities.
Supermarket chain Supervalu and Albertsons confirmed it was hit in yet another data breach this year, with customer data at risk all over again. This most recent attack took place sometime in late August or early September, with the malware installed to target payment card transactions at retail grocery stores.
"We care greatly about our customers, and the safety of their personal information will continue to be a top priority for us," said Sam Duncan, SuperValu CEO and President, in a press statement. "We've taken measures to install enhanced protective technology that we believe significantly limited the ability of this malware to capture payment card data and we will continue to make these investments going forward."
Evolving point-of-sale (POS) malware is proving difficult for retailers to defend against, as significant data breaches continue to rack up. Some cybersecurity previously warned retailers that aren't quick to make changes could be the victim of follow-up attacks, as cybercriminal groups are aware they are susceptible to attack.
The little-known Lizard Squad hacker group recently disrupted online servers of Destiny and Call of Duty: Ghosts, as the group continues to rack up victims. This is more troubling for Destiny, one of the most anticipated game launches of the year, as it was only released on Sept. 9 and has a large following. Lizard Squad has been relatively dormant the past few weeks, staying out of the headlines as it prepared distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Destiny and CoD: Ghosts servers.
Following its initial introduction to the world, the group received a large amount of criticism from gamers, game industry officials, and fellow hackers. After the group issued a fake bomb threat against an American Airlines flight carrying a Sony executive, many wondered how much longer the group would be able to operate.
The U.S. government has arrested Hammad Akbar, CEO of InvoCode, a company known to sell a type of spyware designed to snoop on mobile users. The app in question, StealthGenie, allowed users to record outgoing and incoming calls, intercept calls, activate a device and monitor surrounding conversations within a short distance, and track email, SMS messages, voice mail, and other critical phone behaviors.
It would only take a few moments to successfully install the spyware on a phone, which would give the app user a frightening amount of surveillance capability. Akbar reportedly tried to advertise and sell the spyware app over the Internet, with a focus on helping users catch cheating partners and spouses.
"Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it's a crime," said Leslie Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, in a press statement. "Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim's personal life - all without the victim's knowledge. The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy."
Google and Apple are facing criticism from the FBI and other government agencies over their decision to encrypt data on smartphones that would make it inaccessible to law enforcement. The FBI reportedly opened dialogue with both companies to discuss the matter at hand in the future. It's unsettling the government, which was embarrassed and angered after details of NSA surveillance was leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden, wants to learn more about why companies want to encrypt data.
"What concerns me about this companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law," said James Comey, FBI director, during a recent press conference.
While Apple declined comment to the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently shared these thoughts regarding data protection: "People have a right to privacy. And I think that's going to be a very key topic over the next year or so."
As the threat of organized cyberattacks continue to rise at a rapid pace, the fight to combat these types of costly cyber intrusions can be extremely difficult. Over the past five years alone, there have been more than 236 million reported data breaches suffered by companies.
There are a growing number of university research labs focused on helping train the next generation of cybersecurity experts. Just one dozen colleges and universities currently provide degrees in cybersecurity, and the University of Southern Maine hopes to become lucky number 13.
"There is somebody trying to come over the wall in every business, every entity, every enterprise, every day," said Charles Largay, University of Southern Maine technology solution executive, in a recent interview. "We show them the kinds of things that people do to get ahold of critical information. Then you can defend against it. If you don't understand how it's happening, how do you stop it?"
The Home Depot suffered from a recent data breach targeting customer debit and credit card information, and the fraudulent transactions are currently taking place. Most major banks issued their customers new debit and credit cards, with JPMorgan Chase, Capital One Financial, and other companies sending out new account holders.
It appears the malware was on point-of-sale (POS) terminals from April to September, with an estimated 56 million customers affected. It's a costly proposition for banks to send out new cards, which can cost up to $5 per card to mail out. Capital One didn't say how many account holders will receive a new debit or credit card, but it's a proactive approach to keep customers safer.
There is at least one class-action lawsuit filed in Canada and another in the United States, with other legal actions expected in the future.