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Cyber espionage or cyber spying has become a viable method for different entities all over the internet to collect information from any individual or organization. Despite security measures being in place, this has become a worldwide phenomenon, which no one can stop.Today, we take a look at what cyber espionage is, and how to protect yourself against cyber espionage attacks in a potentially risky world.

What is Cyber Espionage?

Also known as cyber spying, cyber espionage is a form of cyber attack which is used to steal sensitive and confidential information from different sources that are owned by either a person, an organization or even the government.

Cyber espionage is used to gather Pieces of information for 3 main reasons:

  • Competitive Advantage
  • Economic Gain
  • Political Reasons

The Sinister Incentive Behind Cyber Espionage

Cybercrime is one of the major offenses in the modern world. Neither the goal nor the consequences of cyber spying should be taken lightly. The possible gains for the perpetrators of cyber espionage are potentially endless.

The sectors from where information can be stolen and exploited include:

  • Financial information from individuals
  • Strategic information from corporate sectors
  • Diplomatic confidential data from governments

Attackers from all over the world are always looking for a proper scope to exploit these data types for either financial, political, or strategic gain. Cyber attackers are constantly launching attacks on different infrastructures to scrape every bit of information they can.

These attackers have influenced many international social events, wreaked havoc on global affairs, and altered the courses of many events just by misinformation.

Cyber espionage is a force hiding in the dark depths of the internet, constantly moving on from one resource to another, just to get their hands on every bit of confidential assets that might give them an advantage.

The fact that it’s nearly impossible to detect, and can cause changes on a global scale is what makes cyber espionage the most dreadful and criminal act of all.


Forms of Cyber Espionage Attack

Cyber espionage is not just about a targeted attack on a system that targets information. There are many other forms of cyber espionage that can also work in the favor of the entities involved in launching the said attack. Let’s take a look at a list of the primary ones, before diving into details.


  • Catfishing
  • Insider Threat
  • SS7 Systems
  • Social Engineering
  • Spear Phishing
  • Supply Chain Attacks
  • Trojan Apps
  • Watering Hole Attack
  • Zero-Day Exploit



Catfishing is when one person is pretending to be someone else entirely to extract information from an individual or an organization. It’s similar to identity theft since the attacker is using the identity of another person without their knowledge or consent.

Often, a catfish takes it one step further and creates a fake identity entirely from scratch, which is an age-old tactic in the world of espionage. Then the persona is used to interact with and extract information from the target.

With social media, this has become an even more common phenomenon. Some threat actors over social media create a fake persona and then build a virtual relationship with their target for months.

The range of the pretense can be extensive, but the most common choice of identity is usually an attractive member of the opposite sex.


Insider Threat

In the world of cyber espionage, insider threat is a nightmare scenario. There are times when highly trusted individuals of an organization containing sensitive information go rogue.

Once rogue, they hand the confidential information to the other party, giving the opposition an upper hand in strategic terms. This method of sabotaging one’s team by exposing private information and launching an attack is known as an insider attack.

When a single individual gets access to a wide range of sensitive information regarding an organization, said individual going rogue can put the entire organization at great risk. The effects of this attack can get even more severe due to multiple factors, such as

  • Poor Access Control
  • Lack Of Proper Monitoring
  • Organizational Apathy Towards Information Security

An insider attack doesn’t always have to be intentional as well. Sometimes, a careless employee can unwittingly give away access to insider information to a malicious third party.


SS7 Systems Attack

SS7 system 7 is the current world’s telecommunication system, which gets used by both intelligence agencies and mobile operators. The surveillance system can be considered a double-edged sword.

Though this system is the backbone of telecommunication over the entire world, it can work as an effective weapon of cyber espionage if the control falls into the wrong hands.

Any perpetrator can track, read and listen to every text or voice message that passes through the SS7 systems, exposing personal information that can be exploited for nefarious purposes.

Social Engineering

The severity of a social engineering attack can be potentially even worse than an insider attack since social engineering relies on increasingly sophisticated psychological manipulation.

Through social engineering, criminals don’t have to exploit the security loopholes present in a device. Instead, they exploit the human mindset of a certain part of society. Sometimes, this attack can be as widespread as an entire nation as well.

What makes social engineering even more terrifying is the fact that the strategy or the damage of the attack goes unnoticed until it's too late.

Social engineering is the go-to method for attackers due to its level of anonymity and sophisticated methods, which increase the chance of success for any kind of attack.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is the darker version of email outreach. Generally, businesses conduct email outreach to increase and improve their relationship with one or several clients. 

In the case of spear phishing, one or several targets receive a series of emails that looks forward to exploiting the target in any way possible.

Attackers that are using spear phishing as a method, take a long time to compile focused research data on all the potential targets before initiating the attack.

Emails are still a huge part of corporate functionalities, which makes emails look unsuspecting if written right. That is what makes spear phishing a lethal method in terms of corporate-oriented cyber espionage.

Supply Chain Attacks

In a world where supply chains are more mainstream than ever, supply chain attacks can not only ruin the business but also interrupt the daily lives of many who receive the services from said supply chains.

In case of a supply chain attack, there are several ways an attacker can take down a certain supplier, or even go as far as taking down the supplier of the target organization.

The most common way of carrying out this attack is when a hacker plants malicious codes in the supply chain system which is already being used by the target.

This type of subtle attack is so effective that it successfully can invade the most advanced cyber defense systems, and is often untraceable.

Trojan Apps

This is one of the more old-fashioned tactics, that has become popular in modern infrastructure. A trojan app attack is when a virus is disguised as a desirable program, app, or a piece of code, and snuck into the system of a target.



For a trojan app attack, the attacker creates a fake app or program for the unsuspecting public to download. Trojan apps are commonly paired up with social engineering campaigns that convince people to download the app.

Once the app is installed in the system, the attacker can trespass on the device, going as far as taking full control of the systems of the victims.

There are many rogue software in third-party app stores that can infect an individual’s phone. In the case of computers, there are pirated versions of various software that carry trojan threats, among various other harmful malware.

Watering Hole Attack

This method of attack is a more detailed version of spear phishing. To compare: if spear phishing is poisoning one person’s food, a watering hole attack can be compared to poisoning the entire town’s water supply.

A watering hole attack is performed by compromising one person from an organization and continues to perform different attacks that make it look like the first victim was the assailant all along.

Zero-Day Exploit

No software or digital product is perfect on the day of launch. Hackers look to exploit the product or software when they are in the most vulnerable state, which is the launch day. This attack is known as a zero-day exploit.

The zero-day exploit can cause serious damage to the product launch since the solution for these exploits is not even available to the engineers or developers of the product or system.

Prevention Against Cyber Espionage

Even though cyber attackers have figured out the ways and the means to break into all the systems that are out there today, defending against cyber espionage is not an entirely lost cause.

Here are 4 practical tips to prevent a cyber attack on your information


Configure The System Firewall Accordingly

Configure all the firewalls of the systems to set a parameter for normal behavior and set alarms accordingly for abnormal behaviors.

Most of the time, a cyber espionage attack can be prevented simply by configuring the firewall the right way.

Configure firewalls and alerts to recognize normal behavior within the organization and to generate alerts for unexpected or abnormal behavior. As an example, most email leaks caused by malware can be prevented with minimal configuration of the firewall.

Promote BYOD Within Your Organization

BYOD (Bring Your Device) is a great way to reduce data leakage risks. When everyone has their own devices where proper management software is installed, all devices can be monitored accordingly.

You can also use a device control mechanism to restrict Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices to prevent data from being passed onto a removable device.

Another easy way is to encrypt data. Without a decryption key, the encrypted data is safe even when it’s leaked.

Review Data Access Policy

All sorts of data access should be thoroughly monitored to ensure that only authorized personnel has access to the data they need to work on. Data is easily accessible to everyone by default, and making the access more strict can be a big help.

Another way to organize the data access properly is to review, reorganize and rewrite the organization’s data policy accordingly to ensure that all the necessary data is in the right hands can also go a long way in preventing an unwanted attack.

Secure Critical Infrastructure

When securing the network infrastructure, it’s a good practice to separate networks that deal with intellectual property or corporate information.

Once you separate the networks, ensure that only the right people have access to the right networks. You can also enforce rules by updating necessary permissions.


To know more about business cybersecurity, download our free ebook from the link


Legal and Expert Help

Because cyber espionage can be both complex and aggressive, it pays for companies or corporate houses to consult experts and use comprehensive security services. Techforing can deliver advanced threat prevention and intelligence, helping businesses to stay on top of current cyber threats and trends. This helps them to swiftly discover susceptible entry points, comprehend dangers before they materialize, and determine the course of action.

For any kind of legal help about Cyber espionage, contact your law enforcement agency.

USA: Contact FBI cybercrime unit Contact Us — FBI

UK: Contact NCA cybercrime unit Cybercrime – National Crime Agency

EU: Contact Europol cybercrime unit Report Cybercrime online | Europol (

Australia: Contact AFP Cybercrime | Australian Federal Police (

Canada: Contact CCCS Report a cyber incident – Canadian Centre for Cyber Security


If you need any consultation regarding cyber espionage or any other cybersecurity issues, book a free consultation with our cybersecurity experts.




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