19 February 2024

Cyberattacks are common in today's connected world, and their damaging effects often make the news. But not every strike is the same. Nation-states or their agents that plan and carry out state-sponsored strikes are a unique and growing threat. To defend yourself well, you need to know what drives them.

Why should you worry about attacks ordered by the government?

Concerning things can be seen in the numbers:

  • Cybercrime is expected to cost a huge $7 trillion around the world by 2023. It comes from Cybersecurity Ventures.
  • A scary 29% of all data breaches in 2023 were caused by attacks backed by governments. (Source: Verizon Report on Data Breach Investigations)
  • These strikes are often very specific and use a lot of resources, which makes them hard for even the strongest defenses to stop.

Who or what is behind these attacks?

Even though money can be an incentive, state-sponsored attacks usually have bigger goals, such as:

  • Espionage is the act of stealing important military, economic, or political information.
  • Sabotage means destroying important structures or hurting the economy.
  • Spreading false information or trying to change people's minds is called propaganda.
  • Getting an edge in cyber warfare skills is a military advantage.

These different goals show how complicated threats from states are. To come up with good methods for detection, mitigation, and attribution, you need to know what drives them in each case.

This guide goes into more detail, breaking down the reasons behind and methods used by state-sponsored attacks. By putting light on their strategies and goals, we give ourselves the power to:

  • Improve your ability to spot possible threats.
  • Choose which cybersecurity steps to take based on the real risks.
  • Create tailored defenses to stop certain types of attacks.

Cybersecurity is always changing, therefore it is important to stay informed about emerging threats and vulnerabilities while remaining vigilant to mitigate the risks. In order to improve digital safety, it is recommended to understand the objectives of attackers who are sponsored by governments.

What You Understand From State-Sponsored Attack?

Recently, there have been a lot of attacks on hacking that can't be easily traced back to a single group. This kind of confusion often happens because different groups use the same tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Such a rise in cyber events that are hard to track down suggests that state-sponsored hackers are getting better at tricking people, which makes it challenging for investigators to identify who is responsible for cyberattacks

The fact that these programs are backed by the government makes them stand out. These people conduct their activities in such a way that it minimizes the risk of getting caught which can lead to a investigation.. Their goal is to get into a target's network and stay there, usually for a long time, during this time, they aim to monitor activities within the network in order to steal valuable and confidential information. To do this, they put in complex software that is meant to stay hidden and could be dormant for long periods of time.

State-backed groups select their targets according to specific criteria, execute the attack with accuracy, and have a clear objective in mind. These groups are highly intelligen in carrying out tasks related to monitoring networks and extracting confidential data using advanced spying techniques. Because their data is so important and could affect national security or the economy, industries like government, financial services, utilities, and aerospace/defense are top targets. But no industry is safe because any group that has private information, intellectual property, or is involved in a political conflict can be a target. This trend clearly shows that nation-state cyber actions are becoming more dangerous.

What is an objective of state-sponsored attackers?

State-sponsored attacks (SSA) are executed by cybercriminals acting under the support of a nation-state. Their objectives are multifaceted, aiming to:

  • Discover and leverage vulnerabilities within national infrastructures.
  • Collect valuable intelligence.
  • Manipulate systems and individuals for financial gain.

Cyberattacks come from a wide range of countries, and their tactics, methods, and procedures (TTPs) are just as different and complicated. Spear-phishing is still one of the most common ways for attackers to get into a company's network. These attacks give hackers a way to get into a target device. Once they're in, they can increase their access rights and move around the network to steal or encrypt sensitive data and intellectual property.

Malspam, which stands for "malicious spam," is another name for spear-phishing emails that contain harmful files, links, or services. Getting into the system through the supply chain and taking advantage of flaws in public-facing apps are also common ways to get in. During the first breach, a payload is usually sent to the target device to prevent entry and carry out specific actions that allow for deeper infiltration.

It's important to understand the idea of "breakout time," which is the amount of time attackers need to spread their presence in a network after the original breach. This window of time is very important for cybersecurity teams to find, stop, or weaken an attack before it spreads and causes major data breaches. Notably, actors with Russian support have shown they can make lateral moves in less than 20 seconds. This shows how important speed is in both offensive and defensive cybersecurity strategies.

Zero-day attacks are also becoming more common among hackers, including those working for nation-states and Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups. Cybersecurity Ventures says that these kinds of hacks will happen every day by 2021. It is very important that these attempts are quickly found and stopped. Zero-day attacks use vulnerabilities that were not known before, putting companies that are not ready at great risk.

What Are Four Most Recommended Strategies Before Mitigating the State-sponsored Threat?

Train Employees with Cybersecurity Tools

Comprehensive training for employees is the most important thing that can be done to minimize online attacks. It's important to teach your employees how to spot phishing and spear-phishing attempts, since they are often the first point of weakness. Threats that could get around even the most advanced security methods can be stopped by this kind of training. When CISOs regularly involve their workers in cybersecurity training and awareness, they can greatly lower the risk that their companies face.

A big security problem is also the threat offered by insiders, who may be doing things for personal gain or to spy on others. If insider threats are suspected, action must be taken right away, such as calling the police and limiting access for people who are thought to be a danger. It's also important to keep an eye out for USB drives and other unauthorized network equipment that are in the company.

Working together is key: Law Enforcement and Peer Cooperation

Sharing cybersecurity information with other companies and the government is a key part of protecting against threats from states. Industry alliances, law enforcement partnerships, and government partnerships that keep everyone up to date improve joint defense and make people more aware of new threats.

What a Cybersecurity Intelligence Agency Does?

When it comes to modern protection, data plays a critical role. As we move toward an intelligent security environment, big data is being used to inform and strengthen network defenses in real time.However, cyber threats nowadays are vast and complicated, and as businesses generate abundant data, they can struggle to effectively manage and mitigate these threats on their own. Therefore, they require support from external sources to ease the complexities of cybersecurity effectively. At this point, you need a trusted DDoS mitigation partner that can act as a real-time intelligence service. A partner like this uses large networks, expert teams, and a global user base to give useful information about threats funded by states, using machine learning for more in-depth analysis.

Leveraging Automation and Machine Learning for Defense

Because state-sponsored actors can quickly breach, we need to go beyond standard human-led responses. To protect against these advanced threats, DDoS systems need to combine machine learning with both reactive and proactive security methods.

Automation and machine learning offer advantages over older methods, which rely on rate limits and human involvement. These technologies make attack signatures automatically and change security measures all the time to keep up with new threats. Machine learning provides a strong defense against complex cyberattacks by looking at how networks normally work and changing to new attack patterns. This is a big step forward in the development of cybersecurity defenses.


Hopefully, what is an objective of state-sponsored attackers is well understood. And its cyber espionage to further the strategic interests of their nation-state. Their main goals are to attack national infrastructure, get private information, and take advantage of systems and people financially. These cyber-operatives are very skilled and use advanced techniques to get what they want quickly and without drawing attention to themselves. Understanding the complex goals of state-sponsored attacks is important for building strong defenses and protecting people significant consequences of their actions. The threats these actors pose change along with the digital world. It emphasizes the importance of vigilance and the use of advanced cybersecurity measures to combat their evolving strategies by professionals like SafeAeon.

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