Botnets: "The Democratization of Espionage"

Botnets: "The Democratization of Espionage"
Botnets: "The Democratization of Espionage" 

By Brian Krebs
CSO Online
January 22, 2010 

The cyber attacks against Google, Adobe and a raft of other top U.S. 
corporations late last year were by most accounts sophisticated and 
targeted attempts to steal proprietary data. But lost in all of the 
resulting media hoopla over who the remaining victims were and whether 
Chinese hackers or indeed the Chinese government itself were responsible 
is the simple, terrifying truth that individual hackers now have access 
to the same arsenal of cyber weapons once reserved only for nation 

The weapons at issue are, of course, botnets -- agglomerations of 
remotely controlled, hacked computers that are used for a variety of 
criminal purposes, from spam, to high-powered, distributed online 
attacks against virtual targets. In these attacks, the botnets acted as 
a sort of "cloud" data collection and storage network.

I caught up recently with Roland Dobbins, a solutions architect with the 
Asia Pacific division of Arbor Networks, a company that specializes in 
helping customers defend against botnet attacks. Dobbins said the Google 
incident a perfect example of how the botnet has enabled what he calls 
the democratization of espionage.

Brian Krebs: What does that mean."the democratization of espionage"?

Roland Dobbins, Arbor Networks: Well, ten to fifteen years ago, if you 
were going to be the target of state sponsored or corporate espionage, 
you yourself were going to be a government or a large corporation that 
had intellectual property or information that an adversary was going to 
have to invest a lot of time and effort to pry out of you. What we have 
seen over the last five to seven years is that the botnet has 
democratized that process, so that now an individual can commit his own 
intelligence reconnaissance and espionage, whether at arms legth on 
behalf of a state, on his own, or whether he's doing it for corporate 
espionage. This whole process has tons of implications for national and 
corporate security, and for individual privacy.


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