State-sponsored hacking is becoming one of the new frontiers in cyber warfare. Governments all over the world show an appetite for sponsoring black hat hackers. Unfortunately, in most cases these attacks will cause political instability and the release of classified information. However, some of these groups have been quite successful, and their attacks will only increase in number as time progresses.
Even though Axiom is perhaps the most dangerous state-sponsored hacking collective in the world today, we know very little about them. Their most famous act to date is attacking Google in 2010. Further research revealed the group used “sophisticated methods”, which are used only by the defense industry. It is believed Axiom is sponsored by the Chinese government, but these suspicions have never been officially confirmed.
#4 Dragonfly Gang a.k.a. Energetic Bear
Eastern Europe has its role to play in the state-sponsored hacking industry. The Dragonfly gang has been operating out of Eastern Europe for multiple years now. They mainly attack energy companies, although the collective targeted airline and defense sectors as well. According to Symantec, the group bears the traits of a state-sponsored operation.
#3 Hidden Lynx / Putter Panda
China seems more willing to sponsor hacking collectives than ever before. Hidden Lynx is only one of the two main groups of hackers associated with Chinese state-sponsored cyber attacks in recent years. Hidden Lynx prides itself upon stealing whatever customers demand of them. It is believed up to 100 people are part of this group, although the real number is probably much higher.
The other Chinese state-sponsored hacking collective is called Putter Panda. Mostly known for cyber espionage and its links to the People’s Liberation Army, Putter Panda should not be underestimated. Their favorite targets include research companies in the space and satellite sector. No one knows for sure how many people are part of this hacking group, though.
#2 Bureau 121
North Korea is not often named in the cyber attack industry, but they are responsible for sponsoring the Bureau 121 team. At one point, it was believed Bureau 121 was responsible for the Sony hack, although the investigation never revealed credible evidence to back up these claims. The collective mostly focuses on attack South Korean targets, although foreign enterprises are not safe from harm either.
#1 Tailored Access Operations
Although the NSA has their own role to play in the hacking and spying industry, they also sponsor the Tailored Access Operations crew. This unit has been active since 1998, focusing its attention on intelligence gathering. Edward Snowden briefly touched upon this group, which controls software templates, giving them unrestricted access to commonly used routers and internet switches. It is unclear how many hacks the group has completed so far, but rest assured the official tally would be staggering.
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