Cyber crime and the real world

16:51 20 October in Cyber security

BBC news this week reported on a novel use of hacking by a drugs gang. This was an audacious, long lived and multiple pronged attack. The ultimate aim was to allow the criminal gang to smuggle drugs into Europe through being able to monitor and control shipping containers as they came through the port. Through hacking they were able to ensure their own lorry drivers picked up the crates containing drugs.

The first stage of the attack followed fairly traditional lines for targeting an organisation, taking the form of emails with malicious attachments. Once opened by staff at the port the emails dropped Trojan software giving the criminals control of the users PC and allowing remote access. It appears this activity was detected and security improved.

Phase two involved physical break ins at the port offices and implanting hardware to allow remote access, and key loggers to capture keystrokes of users (and hence stealing usernames and password).

This attack is unusual for several reasons. Firstly the purpose. It seems unlikely that anyone at the port would have had good reason to expect this kind of sustained effort to compromise their systems (although that is no excuse for poor security). Secondly, once the attack was uncovered and cleaned up it is very unusual for criminals to come round and break in.

Finally it highlights how cyber crime can support more ‘traditional’ crime. This was cyber crime used to facilitate drug smuggling rather than steal credit card details or trade secrets.