Remember when Facebook announced that it would be warning users of state sponsored cyberattacks on their accounts? Turns out that the feature is actually useful. The US State Department was recently warned of spearphishing attempts on employee Facebook accounts.
The State Department was unaware of any security breaches until several employees received warnings from Facebook that they are being targeted by state sponsored attackers. Nobody actually knows how Facebook knows that the phishing attempts are state sponsored, but it turns out that the warnings were legitimate.
American officials and security groups say that the attacks are originating from Tehran, and come during a cyberespionage surge from Iran. It is believed that the attackers were looking for information on officials who worked on the historic nuclear deal between Iran and the US, which marked a time of improved relations between the two nations. Officials believe that this new round of cyberattacks is an attempt by the Iranian government to appease hard-liners in the government by striking at the US without provoking a significant response.
Cyberwarefare is becoming increasingly common between countries. The internet is essentially a place where they are free to conduct attacks and espionage without the threat of a physical response, and several nations take advantage of this fact. The US had earlier attacked Iran’s nuclear power programme with highly sophisticated malware that was designed to cripple uranium enriching centrifuges. On the other hand, it has suffered several breaches of security at the hands of hackers from China and Russia.
There is nothing new about countries trying to steal information from each other; it has been happening long before the invention of the internet. However, what is new is government institutions being warned of dangerous cyberattacks by the site where they post their lunch pictures.
[Source: New York Times]