First the WannaCry attacks rocked the world, locking up thousands of computers across the globe. Then on Tuesday the 27th of June the so-called “NotPetya” virus exploited the same vulnerabilities as the WannaCry attack and crippled infrastructure across Ukraine before sweeping across the rest of the globe to lock up essential computer systems. The marked up-tick in large, organized cyber-attacks could imply that we are looking at the beginning of a new kind of warfare; Cyber Warfare.
The attacks look criminal but they are geared more to destruction than profit
At first glance both the Wannacry and NotPetya attacks look like they are purely criminal enterprises. Both are ransomware, both lock up the target computer and demand money in order to free your data. It seems pretty cut and dry. Experts however, are beginning to think that these attacks have deeper motivations than quick profits.
In particular, a consensus is beginning to form around the idea that NotPetya was designed specifically to cause as much chaos as possible, rather than to extort companies for money. The attack itself was incredibly sophisticated but the payment collection side of things was incredibly bare-bones, almost as if it was an afterthought. This has led experts to believe that the attacks were designed simply to cause as much chaos as possible while using the cover of ransomware to make it look like an opportunistic attack by inexperienced criminals.
While there is no evidence yet, the same could arguably be said of the WannaCry virus. The virus made very little money but spread like rapidly, only stopped because of a poorly designed killswitch triggered by a security engineer. The virus caused a lot of damage and may well have been a probing attack to see how effective the Eternal Blue exploit and DoublePulsar backdoor were.
The overall trend has been more cyber attacks and more politically motivated attacks
There have been some major attacks recently and the general overall trend has been towards an increased number of cyber-attacks in general with a huge up-tick in the number of attacks that could be politically motivated.
A number of recent email leaks, hacks or cyber attacks have had obvious political motivations. In the United States, the DNC email debacle arguably led to the downfall of Hillary Clinton in a close fought election. The recent blockade of Qatar by the Arab Union can be traced back to a fake news allegedly planted by Russian hackers in an attempt to destabilize the region and drive Qatar into Iran’s arms. North Korea has also been linked to a series of online bank robberies, presumably in an attempt to circumvent the sanctions against the regime and get money into the country.
This represents a major shift in the genealogy of the Cyber Criminal. While we haven’t yet (knowingly) reached the point where you have state run Cyber warfare we are definitely witnessing the beginning of state backed Cyber Warfare. Or to put it in Putin’s own words “hackers get up in the morning and read the news about what’s happening in international affairs. If they feel patriotic, they try to make what they see as a fair contribution to the struggle against those who speak ill of Russia. Is that possible? Yes, theoretically possible.” There is no evidence that the Russian government bank-rolls these individuals but those words certainly imply support.
War isn’t about men with guns battling it out, at least not really
The term Cyber Warfare seems almost wrong. After all when we think of warfare we think of guns, bombs, tanks and infantry. The thing is that war isn’t about those tanks and men and weapons, at least not really. At the end of the day warfare comes down to cold numbers. Can you supply your troops with ammunition, wages and food. Can you get your equipment from this area to that area. Can you afford to rebuild and repair damaged vehicles and kit.
If you look beyond the battles and the triumphs and defeats the aim of war has been the same throughout history. Cripple your opponent’s economy and infrastructure and their army will collapse without you firing a shot. The Spartan’s burned Athenian farms in order to starve them into a fight. Medieval towns were cut off from supplies to avoid a costly attack on the walls. In the First World War the German military was perfectly capable of continuing to fight but the German economy and civilian population was not. So, Germany capitulated, resulting in the treaty of Versailles. The concept of crippling your opponent’s economy has informed many modern insurgency movements. Destroying the morale of the civilian population and damaging the local infrastructure is what guerrilla warfare and terrorism is based on. Cyber Warfare comes from a similar ideology.
America and its NATO allies have been attempting to cripple Vladimir Putin’s administration using sanctions and it has been somewhat successful. The Russian economy suffered as a result and Putin has had to increasingly look to domestic policy in order to shore up his support. Unfortunately for NATO, the sanctions have been unsuccessful at curtailing Russian military development and are increasingly unpopular among European nations. It seems that Russia may now be developing its own methods to fight back.
Russia and others have began to realize the potential of Cyber Warfare
Russia has long been using economic warfare against its old satellite states, leveraging their control over the gas supply in order to keep them in line. Now it is becoming increasingly clear that Russia can sow chaos among its Western neighbors simply by tacitly encouraging “patriots” to target foreign governments.
Emails leaks and hacks have caused international incidents and thrown doubts upon the democratic process in the United States and potentially other countries. However the threat posed by the WannaCry and NotPetya is arguably more dire. If WannaCry was indeed a probe of the world’s cyber defenses, then NotPetya is a test of the first cyber bomb.
Both NotPetru and WannaCry exploited the same loophole. It was released into the wild when the NSA lost a series of exploits that they had been hoarding in order to use themselves. The WannaCry attack demonstrated just how weak our defenses were. Relatively simple pishing techniques allowed the virus to spread unchecked, in part due to the large number of Windows machines running out of date software.
NotPetru has spread far more slowly and most experts do not believe it will infect many more computers than it has already hit on Tuesday. That said, the virus devastated Ukrainian infrastructure quite effectively. This lends credence to the theory that it was designed specifically as a targeted attack designed to masquerade as ransomware to lend deniability to the attackers. If these theories are correct, then Russia or others could plausibly begin to target the infrastructure of more nations, n order to weaken their economy. In other words, Cyber Warfare.
As compelling as the theory is, it’s still just a theory
While the arguments that NotPetru was a state backed cyber attack are compelling the evidence isn’t quite there yet and honestly, we probably won’t find it. Most governments are certain that terrorist groups like Daesh and Al Queada have foreign state backers but it is nearly impossible to prove the links. The same will likely be true of these cyber attacks.
The fact is that the attacks did primarily affect Ukraine and they were clearly designed to cause damage, rather than reap material gain. On top of this Russia’s indifference to Citizen Hackers gives a lot of weight to the argument that these attacks are Russian backed. Yet, it can’t be proven.
Even if we assume that these attacks were not state backed, they have proven that cyber attacks can cause widespread damage. This will almost certainly lead to states beginning to adopt these tactics in order to further their own agenda.
Cyber Warfare is effective and we don’t have a counter
Insurgencies have had great success in defeating well armed modern militaries in recent history. Terrorism has proven almost impossible to stop. Cyber Warfare will prove to be another of these tactics that is nearly impossible for our governments to effectively counter.
It exploits weaknesses not just in software but also in people’s behavior. One of the reasons that ransomware is so effective is because it exploits people’s natural tendencies. Even the most computer savvy of us have almost been caught out by a dodgy email, imagine how easily your IT illiterate could click on a suspect email. All it takes for an attack to succeed is an IT manager to neglect an update, an office worker to click something they shouldn’t and your system is infected, which could lead to more systems being infected.
This is a nightmare for security specialists as they can make as many recommendations and guidelines as they want; but if Bob from accounting doesn’t read them then the malware will still get on the network. Cyber Warfare will be incredibly difficult to counter.
Because of how easy it is to develop and spread it is likely we are going to see more of these attacks over the coming weeks, months and years and I don’t think we will have an effective counter any time soon. You can protect yourself by making sure that you don’t click suspect emails and ensuring that you keep your software as up to date as possible but that won’t stop your bank, office or company from being attacked.
5 Reasons You NEED To Play The Final Fantasy VIII Remaster
After many years of fans begging Square Enix to remaster Final Fantasy VII, they finally listened and did just that. There were numerous excuses as to why the game’s re-release had lagged behind the re-releases of both VII and IX, with the most common excuse being that the game’s original code was lost years ago. However, the company made it happen and the game is finally available for modern audiences to play on modern hardware today. We’re going to give you 5 reasons why you should do just that.
First time available on modern hardware
As we’ve already said, this is the first time that the game is available on modern hardware. While the game originally launched for PS1 back in 1999, it later got a PC port in 2000. That means that is has been a whopping 19 years since a new version of the game has been available for purchase, and that wait was a brutal one. However, it is finally over and you can now play this classic game on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch along with PC. If the lack of modern hardware support was stopping you from checking out, that excuse just got thrown out the window.
The visuals look better than ever
Thankfully, Square Enix did not just slap this port together quickly and throw it out there to shut everyone up. They did a terrific job of putting on a shiny new coat of paint for the game, with the character models in particular looking much better. While things like environment textures didn’t get quite the same amount of attention, this is nevertheless the best that the game has ever looked. It also helps that the game is simply beautiful from a design standpoint, with the game’s world being gorgeous to behold even though we’re dealing with the hardware limitations of 1999.
Quality of life improvements
While those who played the game 20 years ago will still be getting what is essentially the same experience, Square Enix did add some quality of life improvements to put it more in line with current JRPGs. These changes include the likes of increasing battle speed by 3 times, shutting off random encounters completely and even a cheat to give you max HP and limit breaks. While these may seem minor, these will go a long way to ease some of the tedium that many feel after some particularly long gaming sessions. Max HP and Limit Breaks will also make the incredibly tough Ultima and Omega Weapon boss fights a lot easier to deal with.
The Final Fantasy series is known for having its fair share of enticing side quests and mini games, but there isn’t a single one that is as addicting as Triple Triad. The game is essentially a card game that is played on a 3×3 grid, and each card has a certain number on the top, bottom, left and right sides. You need to place your cards in a manner that the numbers on your cards are higher than your opponents, and seeing as your card can be attacked from four different sides this can be tricky. You’re able to challenge many different characters to a match throughout the course of the entire game, and doing so comes with plenty of nice rewards that will make your quest easier.
The game is awesome
While our previous points focused on specific elements of the game, this one is a simple fact that has been true since 1999: the game is awesome. Unfortunately, releasing immediately after Final Fantasy VII (a watershed moment for gaming) put it under a very cruel microscope, with many knee jerk reactions simply saying it “isn’t as good as VII.” However, in the years that have passed people have revisited the game, and the consensus has definitely changed. This adventure that Square created is unlike any other in the series, being host to an ambitious and bizarre plot filled with some of the best characters the series has ever seen. If you’ve played the game before then this is the perfect time to experience this masterpiece all over again, and if you haven’t then what are you waiting for?
10 Huge Games Still Coming In 2019
2019 has been yet another good year for gaming so far, with several games releasing that will be big contenders for game of the year once the curtain closes. However, despite the year already being more than halfway over, there are still some huge titles on the horizon that are sure to make their own dents on the coming best-of lists. This article will list the 10 biggest games that are still coming in 2019.
A new game from Remedy Entertainment is always highly-anticipated, and Control is no different. The game is an action-adventure game in the same style as Alan Wake or Quantum Break, but with a supernatural twist. Players will control Jesse Faden, who possesses a variety of supernatural abilities like telekinesis, levitation and more. She will be using her abilities in order to defeat an enemy known only as the Hiss, which has corrupted reality. Control launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on August 27th.
It has been many years since the last game in the Borderlands series released, but the hiatus is finally coming to an end very soon. Those who have played previous games in the series will feel right at home with this game, as it’s once again a loot-driven FPS. The game will offer more zany characters and a charming and insane world to explore, all while dealing with new antagonists Troy and Tyreen Calypso along with their Children of the Vault cult. Borderlands 3 launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 13th, with a Google Stadia port release date being TBA.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series is returning soon with Breakpoint, which will serve as a continuation of previous game Wildlands. The game is set in an open world environment called Aurora, which is a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean. Players will control Lieutenant Colonel Anthony “Nomad” Perryman, who is a special forces operative that was sent to the island to investigate a series of disturbances in the area. Breakpoint launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 4th, with a Google Stadia port coming in November.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Each new installment in the Call of Duty series is always huge, but Modern Warfare’s release marks a first for the long-running franchise. It will be the first game in the series that is reimagining of a previous game in the series, taking 2004’s original game and updating its mechanics and themes to match today’s world. The game will still have some of the beats that the first game had, but will also incorporate lots of surprises to make it a fresh experience. Modern Warfare launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 25th.
The Outer Worlds
Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds is one that will be very highly-anticipated for fans of Fallout: New Vegas, as this game serves as a sort of spiritual successor to that game. It will be an open world RPG that allows you to explore many unique areas crawling with plenty of deadly foes. Players will also be able to encounter and recruit NPCs as companions that have their own personal missions and stories to take part in. The Outer Worlds launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 25th, with a Switch port also being in the works.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
It seemed very unlikely that Luigi’s Mansion would become a recurring franchise for Nintendo following the original GameCube game, but here we are. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is coming to Switch, which also means it will be the first home console release since the original game back in 2003. This time the game is set in a haunted hotel rather than a mansion, and Luigi has some new tricks up his sleeves to take down all those ghosts. Luigi’s Mansion 3 will launch exclusively for Nintendo Switch on October 31st.
If you’re looking for the most ambitious (and weirdest) game still coming in 2019, then look no further. Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding has perplexed gamers ever since its announcement, and each new trailer that releases just brings more and more questions to the table. It is Kojima’s first game since breaking up with Konami after the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phanton Pain (and the cancellation of Silent Hills), and it looks like Kojima has taken the newfound complete creative control to deliver something truly original. Death Stranding launches exclusively for PS4 on November 8th.
Pokemon Sword & Shield
At this point we all know what to expect from a new Pokemon game, and Sword and Shield seems poised to deliver even more cute creatures for players to capture and battle very soon. What sets Sword and Shield apart from its predecessors is that it will be the first home console release for the series, which is saying something considering the series has been around for over 20 years. Pokemon Sword & Shield launches exclusively for Switch on November 15th.
If you’re a fan of Shenmue then nothing needs to be said for the inclusion of the upcoming third game on this list. Fans of the series have been waiting nearly two decades for a follow-up to the second game, and in just a couple of months that will finally be delivered to them. Brought to life thanks to an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, the game continues the adventure of protagonist Ryo Hazuki as he hunts down his father’s killer. Shenmue III will launch for PS4 and PC on November 19th.
id Software’s DOOM 2016 was one of the best FPS games to come along in years, so it’s a no-brainer that the follow-up would be on this list. Eternal is set to offer yet another intense FPS campaign for players to plunge into, while also offering a multiplayer component that greatly improves upon the last game’s underwhelming multiplayer mode. There will also be twice as many demon types than there was in the last game, meaning that the chaos level just got that much higher. DOOM Eternal launches for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia and PC on November 22nd.
5 Most Exciting Announcements From The Xbox E3 2019 Press Conference
Microsoft’s Xbox E3 2019 Press Conference has officially come to an end, and with it came plenty of big announcements to get excited about. Some new games were announced, whereas previously-announced games got new footage and/or release dates. In this article we’ve narrowed it all down to the 5 most exciting announcements.
New Xbox “Project Scarlett” Coming Holiday 2020
We’ve known for a while now that a new Xbox was in the works, but now we know when to expect it. Microsoft’s fourth console (which hopefully has a better official name than Xbox One did) will be a big step up from the previous console. Things like much faster load times, an AMD Processor that is four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, 8K Resolution and 120 FPS were all mentioned. A price and exact release date weren’t mentioned. It will also be launching with…
Halo Infinite Coming Holiday 2020, Launching On Both Xbox One and Project Scarlett
The wait for the next Halo game has been longer than ever before for series fans, and the announcement at E3 revealed that the wait will continue. Halo Infinite will not be launching until Holiday 2020, meaning it will have been 5 years since the previous game released with Halo 5. It will also be launching on Xbox One and Project Scarlett, meaning the new console will have a big launch title for fans to get pumped about.
Cyberpunk 2077 Coming April 2020, Stars Keanu Reeves
It’s hard to pick a game that people have been more excited about than Cyberpunk 2077, and after Microsoft’s press conference we’re even more excited. Not only is it coming in April of next year, but Keanu Reeves himself will be playing a “key” role in the game. Everything shown from the game has looked great so far, so hopefully it all pans out and we have another classic from CD Projekt RED come April 2020.
FromSoftware and George R.R. Martin Collaboration Elden Ring Announced
This one was actually leaked prior to the presentation, but Dark Souls developer FromSoftware and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin are collaborating on a new game. The game is called Elden Ring, and it will be a departure from the developer’s most recent games as it will be open world. Very little information on the game is known at this point, as it is still in the early stages of development.
Phantasy Star Online 2 Is Coming West
It took a very long time, but the popular MMORPG is finally coming west. The game is coming to Xbox One in a free-to-play form in Spring 2020, so the wait won’t be that much longer. “There will be no limitations on game experiences,”says Sega, because they want to “provide all players with a fair and exciting experience.”
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