Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

4/30/2013
11:26 PM
Tom Parker
Tom Parker
Products and Releases
50%
50%

Exploit Devs At Risk: The Nuclear Scientists Of The Next Decade?

Will a nations exploit developers become the potential targets of state-sponsored assassinations in the future, much like the nuclear scientists of the past century?

When news stories broke last month regarding the legitimacy of using lethal force against civilian hackers, I questioned what the future might hold for exploit devs and other members of the cybersupply chain who are facilitating state-funded, offensive cybercapabilities -- particularly when it comes to more belligerent regimes, such as Iran and North Korea. Are we inevitably set on a path where these individuals may be at the same level of risk that, say, Iranian nuclear researchers have been during the past few years?

As extreme as this might sound at first glance, parallels between nuclear proliferation and cyberconflict are often drawn, primarily due to the potentially paradigm-shifting nature of both technological advances.

Nuclear scientists have been a hot commodity since Ernest Rutherford discovered that he could split an atom in 1917. Subsequent to Rutherford's discovery, history is littered with scientists being captured, killed, or even defecting to a foreign state, most recently including numerous slain Iranian scientists, as well as Shahram Amiri (another Iranian scientist), who was reported to have defected to the U.S. courtesy of the CIA in 2010.

While clearly nuclear and cyberplatforms are not the same, the high demand for individuals who are capable of building highly sophisticated and dependable cybercapabilities, coupled with the apparent desire by a growing amount of nation-states to gain superiority in this domain (otherwise known as an arms race), inevitably creates an environment similar to what has existed in the nuclear domain for much of the past century.

To be clear, we're not talking CISSP-donning "researchers" hell-bent on finding every possible XSS flaw in some open-source shopping cart that no one really cares about. I'm talking world-class engineers capable of not just identifying ground-breaking flaws in software and hardware platforms, but being able to articulate their research in a manner such that it culminates in a capability of scale and operational usefulness required by an advanced nation-state to carry out their mission.

Unlike nuclear weapons, whose effect remains relatively the same over time, as the IT enterprise becomes inevitably better at defense, the demand to maintain cybercapabilities (which achieve similar levels of penetration into the enterprise as we typically see during attacks today), will ultimately increase. Therefore, so will demand for the talent required to build those capabilities and, with that, the desire of competing nation-states to prevent their likely enemies from acquiring those capabilities.

An interest in disruption of our would-be enemy's capability supply chain has already begun, even in the public domain. The identification of individuals associated with the PLA's Unit 61398 earlier this year in various reporting relating to the Comment Crew attacks is a good example of this growing trend of a desire to attribute down to the level of the individuals employed within the state agencies responsible for a growing number of attacks.

Although I think we're likely far from the point where a nation would use lethal force against another's key cyberinnovators, deterrents are often an escalating path. They often begin with legal frameworks (something the U.N. is actively pursuing today), U.N. directives, and political negotiations -- and historically end with a motorcycle-riding, magnetic-bomb-clad assailant, as was the case with an Iranian scientist killed in early 2012.

Tom Parker is CTO at FusionX

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
New 'Nanodegree' Program Provides Hands-On Cybersecurity Training
Nicole Ferraro, Contributing Writer,  8/3/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15820
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.6881, the markdown parser could disclose hidden file existence.
CVE-2020-15821
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.6881, a user without permission is able to create an article draft.
CVE-2020-15823
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
JetBrains YouTrack before 2020.2.8873 is vulnerable to SSRF in the Workflow component.
CVE-2020-15824
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains Kotlin before 1.4.0, there is a script-cache privilege escalation vulnerability due to kotlin-main-kts cached scripts in the system temp directory, which is shared by all users by default.
CVE-2020-15825
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-08
In JetBrains TeamCity before 2020.1, users with the Modify Group permission can elevate other users' privileges.