Cyber threats have become a persistent challenge in the modern world of technology. From individuals to large corporations to even government organisations - no one is immune from the constant threat of cyberattacks. In addition to political gain, earning massive sums of money is also considered the root motivation of cyberattacks.
The use of unlawful digital currency, particularly cryptocurrency, has made the cybercriminals' life easier because they can now easily realise ransom in this currency. In order to protect from cyberattacks, cybersecurity has also been heightened to great extent, yet the technological sphere remains exposed to cyberattacks.
As new cybersecurity features are being developed, the hackers and cybercriminals are also coming up with newer forms of cyberattacks. Likewise, two new forms of cyberattack tools are being used by hackers and cybercriminals nowadays. They are DDos and Zero-click attacks.
What is DDos?
DDos is the abbreviated form of Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDos). This is a very tricky malware used by hackers and cybercriminals to earn illegal money by getting ransom from their victims. DDos is used to attack specific websites and online service portals making the application dead slow or standstill so that desired service cannot be rendered.
The purpose of this malware is to overwhelm the particular website or online service portal or application with more traffic than the server or network can accommodate and consequently, the application becomes inoperable.
The excessive traffic can consist of incoming messages, requests for connections, or fake packets which together with regular service requests overload the application. Because of this malware attack, the person using the application to render service, as well as, the customer waiting to receive service is required to wait an unusually long time.
Because of the long wait, the time-barred online service requests can get cancelled. The user of the application is required to reload the whole process and even after doing so, the user continues to face the same situation. In this way DDos hacking tools are used to render the computer application unusable. In this situation, the target company has to negotiate with the hackers and cybercriminals who demand ransom to resolve the problem by withdrawing that DDos malware.
This is a self-activated virus and is very dangerous in a sense that it does not require the user to click to activate it on the user's device.
Under normal circumstances, the hackers send the malware or the virus to the target's device, attaching the link or hyperlink or any other form that needs to be actioned or clicked by the users to activate. So, the users could easily protect the device by exercising careful action and refraining from clicking and deleting any unknown link or hyperlink.
Zero-click attack is completely different from other regular virus or malware attacks because this tool is automatically activated in the user's device and can infect the device. Zero-click attack spyware is used to penetrate the devices and thus exploits the flaws in mobile operating systems such as Apple Inc's iOS or Google's Android to breach devices.
More importantly, the users cannot detect whether their device is infected with a virus as zero-click attacks take quite some time to manifest and the process then too is gradual.
For instance, after a certain time of zero-click attack and infection with this virus, the users will notice some unusual behaviour of the devices which will gradually intensify. Weird messages may appear causing some frustration and annoyance to the users. Existing messages may suddenly disappear. More frequent indication is that messages appear and disappear straight away without giving the user any scope of viewing. Sometimes, a message arrives but the user cannot see it.
Is zero-click spyware illegal?
It cannot be said that this zero-click malware is completely illegal, rather can be termed as a legal tool illegally used by hackers and cybercriminals. Many government agencies are allegedly using 'zero-click' attacks more frequently nowadays.
Many government agencies are getting more interested in using zero-click spyware because encryption features have made it harder to snoop on people's communications, and because potential targets have been watchful about clicking suspicious links in emails and text messages.
Zero-click spyware manufacturing companies
This hacking device is openly available for sale in the technological world although sale is believed to be restricted among the government agencies. Companies in some countries, particularly Israel, Latvia and Estonia produce and sell this zero-click spyware.
According to reports in the US media, NSO Group is a Israeli firm which makes Pegasus and has been involved in 'zero-click' hacks since 2017. In a 2019 lawsuit, Meta Platform Inc, previously known as Facebook Inc, had accused NSO Group of using the technique to implant spyware on the devices of many people who used WhatsApp.
NSO disputed Meta's allegation and has continuously refuted the allegation saying that they sell their technology exclusively to government and law enforcement agencies as technique to track down terrorists and criminals.
Despite its denial, NSO Group was also blacklisted by the US in November for supplying spyware to some governments.
Other reports suggest that there are some other tech companies, including three from Israel, which make and sell zero-click spyware. Arity is another company which sells zero-click spyware and other kinds of exploits among the governments and companies that work with intelligence and law enforcing agencies in India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, The UAE, Ukraine and other countries.
There is one Delaware, USA based company known as Zerodium, which pays for information about vulnerabilities that would allow for zero-click attacks and then sells this information to customers who may use it to implant spyware.
Banks in Bangladesh must be vigilant
These new forms of cyberattacks have poised severe threats in the technological world. This threat has recently intensified following the Russia-Ukraine war. The war has been raging on three fronts: one is arms war, second is financial war and the third is cyberwar.
Armed conflict will directly affect fighting countries, but financial war will directly or indirectly affect many countries. But as recent experience suggests, cyberattacks can also be used to cripple the ability to provide services or worse, steal hundreds of millions of dollars.
So, all tech users, be it individual, government, or commercial, will have to be equally careful to protect themselves from new forms of cyberattacks. Especially, banks will have to remain extra vigilant and must exercise utmost care and tighten cybersecurity measures by putting close monitoring of devices in place.
Although there are no universally recommended preventive measures against DDos and zero-click attacks, some specific strategies may be considered such as installing the latest and most updated standard antivirus software; limiting and restricting the use of devices especially non-essential devices; carrying out frequent monitoring and scanning as well as frequent rebooting of the devices by a centralised IT team.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.