Free Essay. Problems in Attributing Cyber-Attacks Could Foil US Sanctions Against Hackers

Published: 2023-04-10
Free Essay. Problems in Attributing Cyber-Attacks Could Foil US Sanctions Against Hackers
Type of paper:  Article review
Categories:  United States Software Cyber security
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 985 words
9 min read

The US government has threatened to dispossess the assets of hackers, a move that is inhibited by the burden of proof. A move by the president of the United States to impose sanctions of financial nature to deter the activities of malicious hackers and all those other parties benefiting from the same has had its challenges. Many individuals and groups who are concerned with cybersecurity and intellectual property theft have welcomed the move, including the Software Alliance, and the Global Software Industry Advocacy Group, among others (Warwick A., 2015). The state was seeking to pursue the hackers and other beneficiaries by way of freezing their assets in the US, in situations where there is a failure by the traditional diplomatic and law enforcement processes. Also, the cyber attackers and all other cyber-espionage beneficiaries would be locked out of the US financial system.

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The problem of relating cyber-attacks to the attacker has been pointed out by several representatives from the industry of cybersecurity. The attackers are very smart as they route their attacks through multiple servers to totally cover their tracks; thus, a source of the cyber-attack can be quite difficult to identify. In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment was attacked by cyber attackers, an act that sparked a hot debate on attribution. The US implicated North Korea to the attack, but could not identify any specific individual or a group of attackers whom they believe coordinated the attack (Warwick A., 2015). In response, therefore, the US imposed more sanctions on North Korea.

Ken Westin, a senior security analyst at Tripwire, notes that the challenge of attackers from foreign nations with their operations in the US is quite real. For instance, strange people not located within the US have been using robocalls have defrauded people by claiming to be originating from the Internal Revenue Service. The attackers use voice-over internet protocol networks to reach their victims, making them believe that it is the IRS; thus, the victims give out private information, including their credit card numbers. Many people have fallen victim to the same, especially senior citizens (McAlpine, 2010). The availability of technology whose complexity and sophistication make it easy to avoid any detection has made many perpetrators of these acts walk free.

Alluding to the problem of attribution, Westin also noted that the US government would have more power from the executive orders to pursue these extortionists, be they local or foreign. It may be easy to trace the route of an attack to a certain county, but quite difficult to identify the actual culprit behind the computer. This has been greatly facilitated by the ease of being anonymous and avoiding detection by using high-edge technology (Warwick A., 2015). The methodology adopted by the Obama administration in fighting online criminal syndicates and cyber-attacks would be of interest to many, in terms of resource allocation and the enforcement of sanctions.

Trim Erlin, from Tripwire, comments on the level of surety the US government should have before imposing any economic sanctions. This is particularly because such moves are expected to be highly protected by the affected claiming to have been incorrectly and unfairly targeted. According to some US officials, some notable improvements have been made in tracing the sources of cyber-attack attacks. The investigative technologies for investigating and unmasking those behind cyber-attacks are evolving at rapid rates despite the challenge of implicating any single individual to the attacks.

Bob West, Cipher Cloud's chief trust officer, points out at the need in the near future to have more advanced forensic tools to facilitate the precise identification of the culprits behind specific attacks. However, similar to the problem of attribution, there is a need to balance between the protection of citizens' privacy rights and bringing to justice the real criminals. While the protection of information is very important, it requires a well-played and coordinated methodology for the public and the private sector. Companies need to maintain better security systems, and as well, the suppliers of the technology should design well built-in security features. Legislative wise, the Congress must act by enacting the relevant legislation that will help protect the public.

Reasonable framework by the executive orders

The president and chief executive of security firm Rapid7, Mr. Corey Thomas, noted that it's only a matter of time to establish how effective the US sanctions are in deterring and penalizing the cyber-criminal acts that would be difficult to address in any other approach. He supported the thresholds of harm and termed the executive orders as pretty reasonable as they include the details of the perpetrators' vetting process as well as the limits of harm expected in pursuit of a penalty. He recommended the conduct of security research, which would help unveil the operations of cyber attackers, paying close attention to the particular issues that provide the opportunity for cyber attackers to exploit. Such findings would equip consumers and businesses at large with relevant information on how to protect themselves better (Hofer, 2018). Such research may call for the deployment of white hat hackers who ethically try to break security systems to establish the loopholes that real hackers might capitalize on.

In conclusion, sanctions are expected, especially with the announcement of the framework. However, the ease of proof of attribution remains to be the major question after imposing the new sanctions. Specifically, concerning the alleged attack on Sony Pictures by North Korea, how well will the new sanctions serve the purpose of offering more proof of attribution? Therefore, much more is expected from the US authorities on the use of the new power than a mere declaration of accurate conclusions.


Hofer, A. (2018). The 'Curiouser and Curiouser' Legal Nature of Non-UN Sanctions: The Case of the US Sanctions against Russia. Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 23(1), 75-104. doi: 10.1093/jcsl/kry006

McAlpine, K. (2010). Hiding keys could foil quantum hackers. New Scientist, 206(2764), 22. doi: 10.1016/s0262-4079(10)61428-5

Warwick, A. (2015) Problems in attributing cyber-attacks could foil US sanctions against hackers.

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