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The quiet threat: Cyber spies are already in your systems

Bob Violino | July 28, 2010
Special report: Electronic espionage from China and others could be stealing your vital product and business information right now

New and more powerful security tools, such as network forensic products, are emerging to help defend against electronic spying threats. For example, NetWitness Investigator is an interactive threat analysis application that can perform free-form contextual analysis of raw network data.

These tools don't look for actual malicious code, but rather patterns of network traffic that resemble that of hackers lurking in your network and taking data, says corporate investigator Gregg. Once Social Security numbers, credit cards, or other file types are seen moving out of your network, alarms not only warn the user but help identify and track where the data is going.

If your company has the resources and the expertise, consider developing your own specialized tools to help thwart attacks. Some experts believe this will become more common as companies find that off-the-shelf software doesn't account for their specific information, information movement, and other needs, nor the often custom-tailored threats against them. In other words, because the threats are often custom-made to get specific information from a specific company, your defenses may need to be customized as well.

Ignorance is not at all bliss

Unfortunately, most companies remain blissfully ignorant of the problem of electronic surveillance, says Gartner's MacDonald, taking false comfort in antivirus software and network scans that continue to show zero infections. They'll remain blissfully ignorant until they stumble upon the fact that they've been compromised and that it's been going on for months.

"Denial works until it doesn't," he says.


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