A brief look at Operation Icarus and the world of global hacking
In 2016 Operation Icarus was initiated and targeted “all central banks”
Over the years we have watched an increase in state-sponsored hackers
In 2009 the public silence surrounding the NSA’s hacker elites known as TAO was broken
It has been a long, dark, and at times difficult road for the hacktivist group known around the world as Anonymous. The group that was once known as digital folklore hellions have blossomed into a symbol of hope and resistance against corruption for many around the world.
The Transformation Of Anonymous
Over the years we have watched the transformation of Anonymous growing from a group of trolls fucking with anyone and everyone online to hacktivists that have been spotted around the world wearing the infamous Guy Fawkes mask.
The group has taken on everything from Scientology, to Internet censorship in Egypt, Turkey, and most recently Pakistan. Anonymous has made their physical presence known throughout protests in America, from Ferguson, Missouri, to Washington DC.
The group has no central leadership, which at times can cause problems. Anybody can claim the name Anonymous, which has opened the door for infiltrators. The lack of central leadership can also cause some degree of chaos at times with several heads operating in several different directions at a time, which can act as a blessing or a curse.
Some who dawn the Guy Fawkes mask do not know the first thing about hacking, which changed the playing field and helped Anonymous to have a presence both on and off the Web. Regardless of the hacking abilities of the person, for the most part, those who wear the Anonymous mask all share one thing in common, the hope to take back a corrupt system from the powers that be and give the power back to the people.
It was only a matter of time before the group’s rapid growth would begin catching the eye of law enforcement around the world. Hackers typically face unreasonable charges even if they manage to expose a wrongdoing from their hack. To most law enforcement agencies, Anonymous is considered a terrorist group and persecuted as such.
In March of 2017, Bloomberg Technology released an article titled “‘Anonymous’ Joins Hacker Army Targeting Central Banks for Cash.” The article claimed the hacktivist group was targeting global banks for personal monetary gain. The article’s source is two people that allegedly had “direct knowledge of the group’s activities.”
In 2016 Anonymous launched a 30-day attack against “all central banks.” The attack was referred to as Operation Icarus. Members of Anonymous joined with members of Ghost Squad Attackers to pull off the attack. Members of Operation Icarus made it clear that their hack was not for monetary gain.
Banks that were attacked during Operation Icarus included: The Central Bank of Cyprus, The Central Bank of New Zealand, Central Bank Montenegro, The Central Bank of France and the Guernsey Financial Services Commission. However, no money was taken by the hackers during the attacks.
While they may be the most notable, Anonymous is by no means the only group of hackers on the Web, and far from being the most dangerous. There are too many hacker groups to try and list, most of whom do not hold the moral code many of the Anonymous hackers claim to stand by. There is a much larger threat than civilian hackers these days. Over the years we have seen a huge growth in state-sponsored cyber attacks in countries all around the world.
Governments back these state-sponsored hackers and typically ensure they are very well equipped with both state-of-the-art equipment, and unheard of exploits. The most dangerous weapon in a state-sponsored hacker’s arsenal is the infamous “zero-day exploit.”
A zero-day exploit takes advantage of an unknown vulnerability in software or hardware and can cause catastrophic damage before the exploit is even recognized. The problem with zero-day exploits is there is no way of detection when the attack first happens, so there is no way to prevent it until after the damage is already done.
One of the most famous zero-day exploits is the Stuxnet worm. Stuxnet is thought to have been created by Israeli and American hackers to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. The Stuxnet worm used four zero-day exploits, which was extraordinarily rare.
An unimaginable number of hacking groups are performing cyber attacks every day. These hacking crimes are normally used as a reason to push Internet censorship under the guise of better Internet security laws. However, recently some believe that hackers are becoming the scapegoats to push more nefarious agendas.
During the last presidential election, hackers were blamed for interfering with the outcome and fueling an unstable relationship with Russia. There has still not been any solid evidence to prove that Russian hackers truly did have an effect on the presidential election.
On April 4, 2017, reports were released that the Lazarus group was hacking banks worldwide. The Lazarus group is known for launching cyber attacks against South Korea and is said to have ties with North Korea. Obviously, a cyber attack coming from North Korea directed at South Korea is something that could easily cause concern in the global community.
The Shadow Brokers
About a week later, a group responsible for releasing NSA hacking tools known as the Shadow Brokers leaked documents that—if legitimate—show just how badly US intelligence has managed to compromise elements of the global banking systems.
The Shadow Brokers leak showed evidence that the NSA successfully hacked EastNets. EastNets is a Dubai-based firm that oversees payments in the global SWIFT transaction system. Hacked and potentially targeted computers were said to be located in Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian. The North Korean government was given the blame for hacking SWIFT and committing an $81 million bank theft from Bangladesh.
The Shadow Brokers helped to shed light on a group that there was little to nothing known about until 2009, despite them being a product of the American government. The NSA’s group of elite hackers are known as Tailored Access Operations also known as TAO for short.
Intelligence historian Matthew Aid first broke the public silence on TAO in 2009 when he described the elite hackers in his book about the history of the NSA. Aid claimed that TAO was able to hack into thousands of foreign computer systems all around the world.
In 2013, the world learned a bit more about TAO when the German magazine Der Spiegel released a leaked list of tools and implants used by TAO. The documents showed some of the first used tools used by TAO, who their targets were, and their motto, “Your data is our data, your equipment is our equipment.”
Edward Snowden’s initial leak is said to not apply to TAO, as the group specializes in targeted attacks. The information provided by Snowden showed the world the tools used by the NSA for mass-surveillance, which is not TAO’s modus operandi. Aside from targeting computers, TAO is also said to target some of the internet’s infrastructure, gaining access to routers and network switches.