In the wake of increased cyber activities among governments globally, it is no doubt that some countries will employ whatever technological means available to spy on their perceived targets in a bid to obtain what may be of interest to them.
These countries tend to allocate a high budget to their intelligence departments since they are the ones responsible for such.
What’s notable is that the high budget allocation is invested into training departmental personnel, as well as acquiring advanced infrastructure to cope with increased cyber espionage activities.
Even though the practice happens in the vast majority of governments around the world, it is more common in developed countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Israel, Iran, Syria, France, Germany and, last but not least, North Korea.
What makes these countries in competition with each other is the fear that one may surpass the other in technological developments or military tactics, or both.
By spying, they ensure that they are up to date with the latest developments happening in the competing country.
It has become a time that the practice of spying is so common that even governments that are allied with one another engage in the act. Perhaps the saying that today’s friends are tomorrow’s foes is evident in this scenario.
Therefore, there’s a stronger need to gather as much information as possible to enable countries to know the tactics applied by their counterparts.
In the most recent case of cyber espionage, Israeli intelligence personnel reportedly hacked into the network of Russia-based antivirus software provider, Kaspersky.
The hack revealed that Russian government hackers had infiltrated computers allied to the U.S. in a bid to obtain intelligence information.
The Russians were able to do so by utilizing Kaspersky’s software, which requires access to every folder on the machine before it can be installed.
Reports indicate the software is used by approximately 400 million people across the globe, and some of them happen to be officials of the U.S. government.
Since Kaspersky is in one way under the influence of the Russian state, some parties allege that the company can provide the government with relevant information from time to time.
Following the hack, Israeli intelligence officials alerted the U.S. government of the breach by Russian state hackers. It had apparently occurred years back through the same mode.
To protect classified sensitive information in the future, the U.S. responded with an order requiring all Kaspersky software programs to be removed from government-owned computers, across all departments and agencies.
The magnitude of the breach by Russian hackers onto U.S. networks is not exactly known, but what is certain is that there was some level of success.
But, it’s still key to remember that the U.S. is also fond of spying on others. They are even more notorious at spying than any other country since they do so on both enemies and allies, as well as on the U.S.’s own citizens alike.
What’s more is that they have developed malware and Trojans capable of recording information via any device that connects to the internet.
A dossier by WikiLeaks titled Vault 7 shows how the U.S. intelligence community—more specifically the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—has developed tools capable of overseeing numerous tasks on the devices and networks of their perceived targets.
The irony is that the agency also monitors the activities undertaken by its counterparts such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
It is debatable as to why one would spy on their counterparts since when the other party finds out about the issue, it brings about mistrust.
To some, this brings into question the exact capabilities of the agency given the tasks they can undertake.
To conclude, no matter how far a country is technologically advanced, there are always those who can compromise the security of its systems in one way or another.
Like in the most recent scenario where Israel hacked into Russian systems, Russia did the same to the U.S. And apparently the U.S. has been doing so to the entire globe, so say international experts.
It has been reported that high-profile targets from French delegates to the German chancellor were monitored by the NSA. Not only that, the NSA intercepted millions of French phone calls on various occasions.
The spying of allies brings about many series questions; some query the legality of the matter. Even though it helps avert crisis since these countries share intelligence briefings on issues such as terrorism, the practice also has its flip side.
Before the decision to spy on a high-profile figure is made, top government agencies need to agree because the decision may have dire consequences; even serious retaliatory measures by the victim.
The era of espionage dates back centuries ago, and the only difference now is that technological advancement has turned the whole practice into cyber warfare.
The art is now being applied efficiently by those who have the best personnel, infrastructure and funding to keep up with the technology.
The playing field is not at a level ground for all parties engaging in the vice since there are those who are more advanced than others. For this reason, more budgets are being allocated to the intelligence sector.
In a practical sense, the cause is justified because intelligence-gathering is among the first line of defense.
And with the increase in such activities among both rival and allied countries, we are likely to see a vicious cycle as more governments will continue to engage each other in acts of espionage.