4.CyberSecurity: Understanding the nature of attacks: Stealing knowledge

Stealing Knowledge is much more of a risk for businesses than the general population.  However note that individuals are also at risk of extortion from thieves who search for sexually explicit images or other documents that you really want to keep secret or safe.

Any company with shares that are traded may be targeted by thieves looking for any information that might affect the value of those shares. With that information they can buy and sell shares to make money for themselves.

Stolen knowledge might be used by another company to get a lead over the competition through reducing time to launch new products, or simply using stolen ideas to get a business advantage. Often it is the knowledge of how to do something - the details of a complex process that cannot be patented - that is at risk.

Companies engaged in secret activities related to the arms industry, military aviation, power generation, intelligence etc are at particular danger of being attacked for their data.

CyberSecurity  Understanding the nature of attacks: Destruction

Destruction of computer equipment or anything connected to it may be random acts of vandalism, or highly targeted and coordinated attacks designed to destroy industrial capacity or the basic services of electricity, gas, water, fuel supply that society depends on. One source of such attacks is the insider with a grievance. Another are state actors in conflict with each other, or criminal groups using non-friendly rivalry between states as a cover for vandalism and extortion.

Far too many industrial control systems are not secure and vulnerable to attack.

CyberSecurity  Understanding the nature of attacks: Control

Sometimes criminals set out to take control of computer systems in order to run their own software in the background while still allowing you to have normal use of your computer - though you may notice that it becomes somewhat sluggish.

These computers under criminal control may be used to mine crypto-currencies such as bitcoin, to send out spam emails, to distribute illegal information such as pornography, illegal copies of music or video. The computers that are subverted in this way may be your desktop PC, your TV or any of the many connected computer devices now being installed in homes and businesses.

CyberSecurity Understanding the nature of attacks: Stealing your privacy

Many domestic appliances and such as security cameras or baby alarms, or even voice activated devices can be accessed by a hacker to observe what is going on inside your home. Without proper attention to passwords and control of access these devices can reduce security rather than enhancing it. Unless you have blocked this access your privacy is at risk.


When a criminal organisation controls large numbers of connected computer devices these are called Botnets. When the computers in a botnet are coordinated by the software that they run they can be used for many different purposes, including overwhelming the ability of web servers or email servers to cope with the traffic that they can generate. This may knock the web server offline - a denial of service attack. This can be simply for destructive purposes, or combined with extortion. A large botnet attacking industrial control systems could knock a national electrical grid offline. Cyberwarfare might be a more accurate description.