An often-overlooked dimension of cyber espionage is the targeting of civil society actors. NGOs, exile organizations, political movements, and other public interest coalitions have for many years encountered serious and persistent cyber assaults. Such threats — politically motivated and often with strong links to authoritarian regimes — include website defacements, denial-of-service attacks, targeted malware attacks, and cyber espionage. For every Fortune 500 company that’s breached, for every blueprint or confidential trade secret stolen, it’s a safe bet that at least one NGO or activist has been compromised in a similar fashion, with highly sensitive information such as networks of contacts exfiltrated. Yet civil society entities typically lack the resources of large industry players to defend against or mitigate such threats; you won’t see them hiring information security companies like Mandiant to conduct expensive investigations. Nor will you likely see Mandiant paying much attention to their concerns, either: if antivirus companies do encounter attacks related to civil society groups, they may simply discard that information as there is no revenue in it.
* Rob Deibert and Sarah McKune, “Civil Society Hung Out To Dry in Global Cyber Espionage”